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Cowboys want McClain long term, but at what cost?

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The Cowboys' experiment with Rolando McClain, the No. 8 overall pick in the 2010 draft who has retired twice in four seasons, has been a pleasant surprise this season. An ailing Dallas defense snagged the talented Alabama linebacker for $700,000 of non-guaranteed money and a sixth-round draft pick. They also momentarily plugged the gap left behind by Sean Lee.

But after a season in which McClain significantly out-performs his bargain deal, the 25-year-old will likely want to be compensated like a top-20 linebacker that is still ascending and is well under 30. That is what makes these comments by Dallas Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones interesting to explore:

"We want to keep good football players that do the right thing on and off the field," Jones said Monday on KRLD-FM in Dallas, via ESPN. "Everything we see so far from Rolando is he's one of those guys. I certainly see a situation where we're going to be trying to sign him to a long-term contract and keep him here with the Dallas Cowboys. He's certainly made a difference. He goes about his business the way we want to see them go about their business.

"I think he'd be a great complement in there with Sean Lee in terms of the way Sean plays the game. It may be a situation where if he were the Mike and Sean moved over and played some Will for us, it may help Sean in terms of the wear and tear on his body. There's a lot of thoughts there. We're more focused on what's going on here right now, but he falls in that same category as DeMarco (Murray). I know he's somebody that we'd like to keep around here."

Jones' comments are interesting for several reasons. First, he mentions McClain in the same breath as Murray, who, at 26, could be in the market for a decent deal as well. He also mentions the ancillary benefit of having McClain to play alongside Lee, and that McClain could actually hold down the Mike position.

But what is McClain worth, exactly?

To get a sense of his potential value, Around The NFL polled several agents and offered them a chance to weigh in on their starting point, and what some of the potential pitfalls might be.

Given his age and ability level, McClain could be somewhere between the $3 and $5 million mark per year, though the deal would be full of redeemable money given his past. We would see a signing bonus chopped up over several years, and a sizable amount of money tied to active roster bonuses.

The length of the deal also varied. On one hand, a five-year contract would make sense because, if McClain has truly turned the corner, he would be a bargain for that long. On the other, several agents mentioned Rey Maualuga as a more accurate example. Maualuga, who dealt with some off-field issues as well, entered the league the season before McClain and signed a two-year deal worth a total cash value of $6,453,125 back in 2013.

Of course, this all depends on whether McClain can sustain his current level of play. Maybe, at the end of the season, he feels a certain sentimentality for a team that gave him a chance when no one else would. Maybe he holds on, takes a chance and gets every penny he's worth.

Either way, this has to be something that is on Jones' mind, especially if he's already talking about a potential deal.

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