Shea McClellin‘s time with the Patriots has come to a close. According to Field Yates of ESPN, New England has released their linebacker with a failed physical designation, ending his two-year stint with the club.
The 28-year-old was under contract through the 2018 season and set to earn $2.15 million in base salary. With his release, the Patriots have opened up $3.2 million in cap space for them to use in free agency.
McClellin is a former first round pick of the Chicago Bears back in 2012 and where he spent the first four years of his career. Back in 2016, the veteran inked a three-year deal to join the Patriots on a contract worth around $9 million with $3.5 million guaranteed. That season he played in 14 games during the regular season totaling 41 tackles and one sack, while also contributing on special teams. McClellin started at linebacker for the Patriots when they faced and ultimately beat the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl LI.
2017 was a lost year for McClellin as he sat out the entire campaign due to various concussions. He made his return to practice for a brief moment in November, but then suffered a setback due to another concussion which was the nail in the coffin to his season.
Despite the concussions, the linebacker reportedly intended on continuing his NFL career. Now, however, it appears like it may have to be somewhere other than New England.
Currently, the Patriots’ linebacking core does have some decent depth, albeit the lack of premier talent at the top.
Dont’a Hightower is recovering from a season ending pectoral injury, but it doesn’t look like his 2018 season will be impacted much, if at all.
The Patriots are already adding to the edge and interior of their offensive line this offseason with additions such as Adrian Clayborn and Danny Shelton, so New England could use their 31st overall pick in the first round to sure up the middle linebacker spot.
One name that’s intriguing is Boise State linebacker Leighton Vander Esch. Last season, he totaled 141 tackles, four sacks, four passes broken up and four forced fumbles while earning Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year. He impressed at the NFL Combine and is projected to come off the board towards the tail end of the first round.