By Nick Shook
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Now that we’ve had time to digest Kansas City’s Friday evening release of Jeremy Maclin, it’s time to project where the veteran could be headed.
At 29 years old, one would think he’s got at least a couple more years of effective football left in him. As we detailed Friday, his stats did see a dropoff in 2016, but Maclin missed four games and was battling for targets with teammates Travis Kelce, Tyreek Hill and Chris Conley. Kelce led the Chiefs with 116 targets, with Hill finishing second with 83, Maclin third with 76 and Conley fourth with 69, according to Next Gen Stats. It’s not outrageous to expect his numbers to rise in 2017, given he’s placed in the right situation.
Which teams offer the best fit? Let’s take a look below.
It might require some cap finesse and a hard sell, but this is the pairing that makes the most sense. Baltimore has made a living off adding veteran pass-catchers for much of the last two decades (Shannon Sharpe, Anquan Boldin, Steve Smith, etc.) and would be wise to add Maclin to a group that includes Mike Wallace and Breshad Perriman. Maclin has big-play ability, but when paired with two burners like Wallace and Perriman, Baltimore’s receiving corps could become that much more dynamic with a reliable target like Maclin. Add in the significant hip injury to Dennis Pitta, and Baltimore could use a veteran target now more than ever.
The Bears watched Alshon Jeffery walk to Philadelphia and have no real indication of what they have in Kevin White. Their most inspiring returning receiver is Cameron Meredith (keep your “but what about Markus Wheaton?!” retorts to yourselves). Maclin would bring a veteran presence that this corps sorely needs and a highly dependable target for new arrival Mike Glennon and future franchise quarterback Mitchell Trubisky.
Let’s just start this point by saying this one isn’t happening, but we have to list it, because on paper, the Browns still show a need at receiver. But the Maclin/Cleveland union won’t happen, because the Browns treat anyone near 30 like they’ve just become eligible for an AARP card (or, for Ohioans, the Golden Buckeye card). Maclin is 29. Cleveland isn’t a veteran wideout away from contention, so it would be more worthwhile to get its quartet of second-year wideouts (Corey Coleman, Rashard Higgins, Jordan Payton, Ricardo Louis) some valuable playing time.
The Rams drafted Cooper Kupp and practically threw a parade for the homecoming of Robert Woods, but Maclin would be an upgrade over both. With Tavon Austin being the lone notable name not previously mentioned, and the Rams coming off a season that included Kenny Britt and Brian Quick as two of their most reliable targets, Maclin would be a major boost for second-year quarterback Jared Goff. The Rams are another team, though, that would need some cap magic to work this potential signing.
Michael Floyd‘s departure created a void in the receiving corps that is going overlooked this offseason. Currently, the Cardinals have future Hall of Famer Larry Fitzgerald, John Brown (who may or may not be back to old form this season) and then a sharp dropoff in J.J. Nelson, Brittan Golden and Jaron Brown. Maclin might fit better here than almost anywhere else (other than Baltimore) opposite Fitzgerald. With a quarterback like Carson Palmer running the offense, this could be one of the more enticing destinations for the veteran, if he wants to compete for a division title immediately.
If the Bills want to be taken seriously at all in the passing game, they need more targets for Tyrod Taylor. Buffalo attempted to address the massive hole at receiver by drafting East Carolina product Zay Jones with the 37th-overall pick, but the 6-foot-2 receiver is obviously unproven. Sammy Watkins‘ foot has been as fickle as they come, and additions of Corey “Philly” Brown and Andre Holmes are less than inspiring. Maclin would be an immediate boost to the position group and also a veteran presence that the Bills have sorely lacked in their receiving corps for quite some time.
New York Jets
The Jets dumped their veteran receiver (Brandon Marshall) to go younger, but if they truly don’t want to endure another painful season, adding Maclin to the corps would make sense. As it stands, Eric Decker, Quincy Enunwa and Robby Anderson are the top three options, with Jalin Marshall and Charone Peake looming (though Marshall is facing a suspension for PEDs). A reliable target for Josh McCown/Bryce Petty/Christian Hackenberg/Random Quarterback X would only help, if the Jets want such assistance. It just depends on whether they want to commit to a full rebuild.
San Francisco 49ers
It seems the Niners are in the business of signing everyone with a pulse, so why not make a run at Maclin? Their depth chart includes new arrivals Pierre Garcon, Marquise Goodwin, Aldrick Robinson and 2016’s lone pass-catching inspiration Jeremy Kerley. They seem destined for another season of struggles, especially after addressing other needs ahead of receiver via the draft. If Maclin doesn’t want to chase a ring, Santa Clara could be a viable destination.