BALTIMORE — Terrell McClain felt excited, and tired, and yet relieved on Saturday. The former Dallas Cowboys defensive lineman’s time on the market didn’t last long as the Washington Redskins signed McClain to a four-year deal worth $21 million at the start of free agency on Thursday. He has been one of Washington’s four new acquisitions during the first week of free agency, and his signing occurred on the same day the franchise fired general manager Scot McCloughan.
Although he was unaware that McCloughan would be fired, McClain said he was focused on other factors before making his decision to join the Redskins. That starts with receiving a nice deal, which includes a $7.5 million salary in 2017, and an opportunity to compete as a starting defensive lineman.
“I think all the drama hit actually after I signed, but I didn’t really see all that part,” McClain said before the Ed Block Courage Award reception in Baltimore. “I was just worrying about getting signed with a contract and all that being taken care of, but the biggest thing with me was the football part and wanting to be with a team that wants me, was willing to pay for my body of play to come here and make a change. That’s what really drove me here over some of the other teams, but it’s going to be good. It’s going to be good.”
McClain is projected to replace Chris Baker, who signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, as Washington’s five-technique defensive end, but he has the ability to kick inside if needed. Listed at 6-foot-2 and 302 pounds, McClain has primarily played in a 4-3 scheme for the majority of his six-year career as a three-technique defensive tackle. He was able to establish himself in the NFL in a 3-4 defense with the Houston Texans, however, in 2013.
Picked in the third round by the Carolina Panthers in 2011, McClain played 12 games his rookie season before he was placed on injured reserve with a knee injury. He was released by Carolina before the 2012 season and had a brief tenure with the New England Patriots before he settling in with the Texans and defensive coordinator Wade Phillips. McClain played in all 16 games during the 2013 season, becoming an effective rotational lineman despite the lack of sacks.
“A lot of people, it’s hard for them to transition from different defensive schemes,” McClain said. “For me, it’s difficult but not too difficult because I’m used to it. It wouldn’t be too long for me to get used to it, but I see it as a challenge. You’ve got to keep challenging yourself. I feel like that’s the only way to get better is to keep challenging and compete. I feel like it’s a challenge, and I’m ready to compete my [tail] off to go and get that starting job and make a difference.”
McClain, who will turn 29 in July, signed a three-year deal worth $3.05 million with the Cowboys in 2014, and he had his most productive season last year with career highs in starts (15), combined tackles (40), sacks (2.5) and forced fumbles (two). McClain’s career season occurred just a year after he landed on injured reserve in 2015, playing in just two games before suffering a big toe injury. It’s the reason the Pensacola, Fla., native was voted by his Cowboys’ teammates as their Ed Block Courage Award recipient, given to a player that exemplifies “commitments to the principles of sportsmanship and courage.”
“Being able to make it here for the Ed Block Courage Award was also a blessing,” McClain said. “I was voted on by my peers with my previous team and being able to be here and accept this award is a great accomplishment. I feel like it’s a great ride. Being able to overcome certain things and to also be rewarded and to also be viewed and seen by other people that care about you is really an honor and humbling at the same time.”