Atlanta Falcons cornerback Robert McClain tweeted earlier this afternoon that he was headed to the New England Patriots. McClain spent the past three years with the Falcons and became an unrestricted free agent earlier this month.
McClain first entered the NFL as a seventh-round pick out of Connecticut with the Carolina Panthers in 2010. He played one season with the Panthers, primarily on special teams. He was cut the following summer by the Panthers and spent two weeks with the Jacksonville Jaguars before being cut prior to Week 17 of 2011. He would join the Falcons less than a month later. McClain won one of the final roster spots with the Falcons in the summer of 2012, but following injuries to Brent Grimes in Week 1, was moved up to fourth cornerback on the depth chart. He would play just two snaps the following week as an injury replacement for Asante Samuel, but managed to snag one of three interceptions the Falcons had on Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning on Monday Night Football . McClain took over the Falcons’ nickel duties two weeks later and did not relinquish them for the rest of the season, earning acclaim after the season for his solid play.
However, McClain was unable to repeat that success the past two seasons. He managed to hang on as the Falcons’ primary nickel/slot corner until Week 6 of this past year, where his poor play prompted the Falcons to swap in Josh Wilson. McClain earned minimal playing time on defense over the next few weeks until an injury to starting cornerback Robert Alford forced him into the lineup to play right cornerback. McClain finished the season as the starter opposite Desmond Trufant with Wilson remaining as the nickel corner.
Altogether, McClain started 15 of 47 games with the Falcons over the past three years, recording 178 tackles, two sacks, three interceptions, two forced fumbles and four fumble recoveries. He also proved valuable on special teams, adding ten total tackles there and also serving as the team’s punt returner for much of 2013. McClain averaged 10.2 yards on 19 punt returns.
The Falcons have already potentially added McClain’s replacement in free-agent signee Phillip Adams. Adams is currently expected to compete with holdovers Ricardo Allen and Jordan Mabin for the vacated nickel spot behind Trufant and Alford. Wilson and fellow backup cornerback Javier Arenas are currently unsigned free agents.