Potential is a dangerous word in the world of professional sports. The label has a truly positive connotation during a player’s first, perhaps second, season. After that, being labeled as having potential means an impassable ceiling, expectations not met. This means that the high output is glaring but unrealistic. Tackerist McKinley has potential, but he’s a long way from the expectations that surrounded him as the 2017 first-round pick of Dan Quinn and the Atlanta Falcons.
And now, it looks like the Cowboys may be trying to rekindle that potential, and that connection if it helps McKinley recover from an injury he sustained while playing with Cleveland last season. The Browns were the third club McKinley played for, but he was tied with the fifth club after failing physical appearances in 2020 following waiver claims by Cincinnati and San Francisco before landing with the Raiders. And now the Cowboys have brought him in for a free agent visit as the club operates at training camp in Oxnard, CA.
McKinley has 20 career sacks in 60 games, which overall would place him third on the Cowboys’ roster behind DeMarcus Lawrence (48.5) and the first DE reclamation project of 2022, Dante Fowler, Jr. (35). Fowler also worked under Quinn and is back for the second round to try to reinvent his career.
Fowler is expected to compete with Dorrance Armstrong and possibly second-round rookie Sam Williams for a starting role opposite Lawrence. McKinley would certainly be a candidate for a rotation spot with Tarrell Basham if the sides are able to work out a deal.
McKinley was selected by the Falcons in the first round of the 2017 draft, two places before the Cowboys drafted the Taco Charlton. The team at the time had a strong interest in McKinley, so with Quinn now being the Dallas defensive coordinator, it makes sense that the two sides would talk if the player was ready to return to the field.
Last season, Dallas signed free agents Safari Damonte Kazi and Malik Hooker as they were coming back from an Achilles injury. Kazi started 15 of his 17 games with the Cowboys but it was Hooker who got his second contract with Dallas, and extended for two years.
According to Michael Gehlken of the Dallas Morning News, McKinley did not work with the club, but rather physically and met with the staff.
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The story originally appeared on Cowboy Wire