The Patriots made big trades for the past two days and now have added some much-needed depth at linebacker by signing former Bears 1st round pick Shea McClellin to a 3-year contract on Wednesday night. The news was first reported by Adam Schefter of ESPN.
In a year that the Patriots have been stripped of their first round draft pick by the league with the Deflategate nonsense, the team has added four former first round picks in G Jonathan Cooper, DE Chris Long, RB Donald Brown and now McClellin.
McClellin was originally drafted by the Bears in the first round of the 2012 draft from Boise State with the 19th overall and used as a defensive end. He was reportedly on the Patriots radar in the draft but the Bears selected him two picks before New England selected Chandler Jones.
The Bears envisioned him as a bookend pass rusher to Julius Peppers at the time, something that never materialized. It was that and perhaps a case of them reaching for him in the first round that permanently had McClellin the target of criticism in Chicago.
The Bears moved him to outside linebacker where he had limited success until they moved him to inside linebacker in 2014 in their 3-4 scheme where it all started to fall into place under the tutelage of Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio.
At that time, the Bears had Lance Briggs and Brian Urlacher on the inside and it was just a case where they failed to utilize him in a position that he was better suited for.
Fangio whose straight from the hip, direct answers during interviews is well documented, made his feelings clear on McClellin’s prospects at inside linebacker last year when asked about his progress on the inside.
“I like him,” Fangio said. “His future is bright. He’s playing good for us. Obviously, we think he’ll play even better as we move on through this season and in the future. His future is bright here as a linebacker.”
McClellin is a good sized (6’3, 245 pound), linebacker with above average speed and athleticism. He’s probably best suited to be a strong-side linebacker covering tight ends in the 4-3 Patriots system either in base or in their sub-packages. He also has special teams experience as well which should definitely come into play with New England.
How Bill Belichick and Matt Patricia envision his use isn’t yet known, but they obviously felt like he can be a valuable piece of the depth here, hence the three-year deal. His versatility in being able to play a variety of roles had to be an enticing lure for the Pats.
He’ll join a stable coaching staff for the first time in his career, having gone thru three coaches in his four years with the Bears, another factor that may have limited his growth as a player.
With the retirement of Jerod Mayo and Dane Fletcher and the release of Darius Fleming, the Patriots have a need of depth at linebacker. They have a pair of outstanding ones in Dont’a Hightower and Jamie Collins. Now McClellin will join Jonathan Freeny, Kevin Snyder and former Bear Jon Bostic on the roster to beef up the depth.
With a fresh start with the Patriots and no longer having to live up to the pressure of being a first-round draft pick and being allowed to play to his strengths, McClellin should be able to find a nice niche in the New England defense.