McClain, who was second on the Cowboys in tackles last year according to the coaches’ breakdown, is visiting with the New England Patriots on Monday, according to multiple sources and ESPN Insider Field Yates.
The Cowboys have been in contact with McClain’s agent, Pat Dye, in the offseason about having him return but have not been able to close a deal. McClain faces a four-game fine for violating the NFL’s substance-abuse policy and one more failed test would lead to a four-game suspension.
The Cowboys signed Jasper Brinkley to a two-year, $6 million deal as a free agent earlier in the month as insurance if McClain does not return and that could allow them to move Sean Lee to weakside linebacker.
The Cowboys acquired McClain in a trade last July from the Baltimore Ravens for what turned out to be a sixth-round pick after he met certain conditions of the trade. The Cowboys received the Ravens’ seventh-rounder in return.
McClain missed three games with groin and knee injuries as well as an illness. He was knocked out of the Cowboys’ two playoff games with a concussion.
When he was on the field, however, McClain was the Cowboys’ best playmaker, finishing with 108 tackles, one sack, nine tackles for loss, five quarterback pressures, two interceptions, five pass breakups and a forced fumble.
The Patriots have a need with Dont'a Hightower needing 6-7 months to recover from shoulder surgery.
Like Cowboys coach Jason Garrett, Patriots coach Bill Belichick has a close relationship with Alabama coach Nick Saban, who was on Belichick’s staff with the Cleveland Browns. Saban remains one of McClain’s trusted mentors after a failed run with the Oakland Raiders, who made him the eighth pick of the 2010 draft.