Might the Ravens Release McClain?

NFL: Baltimore Ravens at Houston Texans

Late last season, the Ravens were forced to place LB Jameel McClain on the Injured Reserve (IR) list due to a serious neck/spinal injury. This ended an up and down season for McClain, who was in the first year of a new 3-year contract signed last March.

McClain had earned that contract with a relatively solid 2011 campaign during which he appeared to emerge as the next in line of solid sidekicks for future Hall of Famer, Ray Lewis. Instead, 2012 saw his play slip and his spot largely taken over by fellow former undrafted free agent, Dannell Ellerbe.

Despite the apparent severity of the injury, on the surface the Ravens expected McClain to recover and be ready to play by Training Camp. Instead, McClain has yet to be cleared and is presently on the team’s Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list.

At this point, there are no indications that the Ravens do not see McClain as being part of their 2013 squad. In fact, last week’s release of the team’s initial training camp Depth Chart had McClain listed as one of the starting Inside Linebackers.

But, while the Ravens do still have some time to let this matter play out before having to make any decisions about McClain’s future, the end of August may well bring the need to make some difficult decisions regarding McClain’s fate.

Presently, McClain is on the “Active” PUP list, which means that the team can activate him at any time and he can begin practicing. If they reach the point that they know that McClain is not going to be ready for the start of the season, or once the final cut down date arrives, McClain can be transferred to the “Reserve” PUP list, which would remove him from the team’s active roster. This would force McClain to sit out at least the first 6 weeks of the season. At any point after those 6 weeks (but before week 11 of the season), McClain can begin practicing and from that point on, the team has 21 days to either activate him to the 53-man roster or place him on IR, thus ending his season.

For the moment, it appears that the Ravens are comfortable letting that scenario play out. However there is another option that they may be forced to consider if McClain is not cleared for contact and continues to be unable to pass his physical.

They can release him.

Normally, an injured player can not be released, but when the injury occurred in a prior season, and the player is still unable to pass his team physical in the following league year, the player can be released with a “failed physical” designation, thereby ending the team’s obligation to the player (recall, Domonique Foxworth’s release in March of 2012).

While this would seem to be a harsh result, as long as the player is unable to pass his physical, this option is available to the team; however, it must be done by the final cutdown date.  Otherwise, he will be deemed to have passed his physical (even if he is still not healthy enough to play) and can not be released – at least, not without triggering an injury grievance from McClain and the NFLPA.

In such a scenario the Ravens would be relieved of paying McClain 2013 and 2014 base salaries, but the player is entitled to receive up to $1M each year under the Injury Protection Benefit, provided for by the league’s CBA. This amount, however, does not presently count against the team’s Cap (starting in 2016, any Injury Protection Benefit paid will begin to start counting against that year’s Cap).

The team does, however, still have to deal with the resulting dead money caused by the release. In McClain’s case, since it is now passed June 1st, the team would realize a Cap savings of $3M, but the team would have to carry $1.2M in dead money against both the 2013 and 2014 Caps. With the team expected to be very tight against the Cap once the 2013 campaign begins, this $3M could go a long way toward providing the team with a fair amount of Salary Cap cushion heading into the season.

The team could also decide to reach an injury settlement with McClain, thereby giving him a part of his $3M base salary and maintaining a good relationship with McClain, in the hope of possibly re-signing him in the future once (if) he has recovered.

At this point, the team seems inclined to go into the season with McClain on PUP, if necessary, but when the final Cap crunch comes, they may decide that removing McClain for the roster permanently may just be the wisest course of action, especially if his medical prognosis remains murky.

What should the Ravens do with Jameel McClain?
Place him on PUP (38%)
Release him and gain valuable cap space (62%)
This poll has completed. Thank you for voting.

11 Raves on “Might the Ravens Release McClain?

    • Brian on said:

      Releasing him would save them $3M against the Cap this year (less the cost of replacement). Given him an injury settlement would require both sides agreeing on a figure. That figure would count against the Cap, so it would lessen the savings the team would receive, but could be seen as a good faith jesture and could keep a positive line of communication open if/when McClain recovers and is ready to play again.

      • John on said:

        Well then the way I see it, the Ravens could approach him about a settlement and if the asking price is too high they could just release him, Ozzie holds all the cards here. That being said I sure hope McClain is able to play this year.

  1. ravensean509@gmail.com on said:

    I’ve been talking about this as soon as the superbowl ended and the offseason began what with the talk about possible cuts. I called boldin this time last year and hoped we could get out of this contract. I personally didn’t really understand it. By all accounts, a guy we should root for and the team likes for intangibles. Problem is………………..i never thought he was anything but adequate and really, really awful last year. The LB equivalent of Kemo/Cody at DT. To me, i’ve never seen anything but a guy to upgrade on. Smith, Brown and (probably) bynes…………………possibly mclellan have more skill………………..definitely more upside. An injury settlement sounded like a nice solution to me since february.

  2. Big C on said:

    Y’all cold as sh*t… You all talking all this non-sense but you’ll say cut him like he didn’t get hurt playing for the Ravens. Ozzie and Steve don’t pull that type of non-sense, which is why guys like T.J. Houshmanzadeh say, “you couldn’t get on your knees and pray to be on a better team than the Baltimore Ravens”. Now the Dolphins or the Bengals… yeah, they’ll cut guys who got hurt playing for them. But that’s beyond cold….

    • Brian on said:

      The Ravens cut Domonique Foxworth under exactly the same circumstances – he was hurt playing for the Ravens, like McClain, but couldn’t recover from his injuries.

      If it gets to that point with McClain, the Ravens are well within their rights to release him. He would be entitled to the Injury Protection Benefit, so he wouldn’t be left out in the cold if he doesn’t recover and sign with another team.

      Unfortunately, it’s a business, and it may come to the point that he Ravens – as they did with Foxworth – have to make the decision of whether to pay him $3M (and take up $3M in Cap space) when he’s not going to be able to play or releasing him (and pay him $1M in Injury Protection Benefit that doesn’t count against the Cap).

  3. JPP on said:

    It’s been a while since his injury and still isn’t ready, who knows when he’s ready or if it’s even wise to play again. It would have been nice to have him back with his experience, but the roster is looking deep enough without him; Brown, Smith, Bynes and Hamilton. I don’t have the benefit of a prognosis, but I don’t see any reason to keep him without any encouraging reports.

  4. PG County Ravens on said:

    Hmmm? Very interesting but remember how they handled OLB Sergio Kindle. Major difference is JM was hurt on the field of play and the amount of $ they earn. I think worst case scenario – the Ravens are willing to IR him for the season. We’ll see – stay tuned.

  5. ravensean509@gmail.com on said:

    I didn’t mean to sound cold or sarcastic, it’s just that i’ve didn’t quite get giving him a medium/big deal. Notice there wasn’t any other real interest. I do root for the guy because of his life story (etc) and wish him only the best. I’d just like to see it coming off the bench or elsewhere. He never really secured the spot beside ray for seasons even though the more talented ellerbe was buried in the doghouse. His only supposed forte, run stuffing, didn’t look very good last year. Like most of us, when my opinion differs from the team on a player or circumstance, i’m generally (but not always) wrong. CAM!!…………… I ‘ve just always seen a starter to upgrade on. Pretty much exactly the same as Dawan Landry who had the same issue. I think, even by accident, that Jim Leonhard and pollard were better. Same as i’m 98% sure that Daryl Smith and Arthur Brown could and should be an upgrade.

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