Impact roster additions in June are few and far between for NFL teams. Jeremy Maclin could be—in all honesty, should be—just that for the Baltimore Ravens.
A week after being released by the Chiefs in a surprise cost-cutting move, Maclin reportedly signed with Baltimore on Monday. He is precisely the type of piece the Ravens entered the off-season in need of, yet have been on able to acquire either via the draft or earlier free agency.
Maclin should slot right into the regular rotation at wide receiver, alongside Mike Wallace and Breshad Perriman. Let’s put an emphasis on “slot,” too, because Maclin has extensive experience—and has done some of his best work—from an interior alignment. The Ravens had pinned a great deal of their ’17 hopes on the Wallace-Perriman duo, but they also must replace Kamar Aiken, Steve Smith and injured tight end Dennis Pitta. All of those players proved effective out of the slot.
The 29-year-old Maclin also checks off a box as an all-important vertical threat. That’s a critical component to an offense quarterbacked by Joe Flacco, who has never shied away from taking shots deep. (One might recall that Flacco earlier this off-season lobbied for Baltimore to pursue former Raven Torrey Smith and his career 17.0 yards-per-catch average, before Smith signed in Philadelphia.)
Wallace and Perriman combined to average 14.4 yards per reception a year ago, but Flacco still posted a career-low 9.9 yards per completion. Tossing Maclin (13.5 career yards per catch) into the mix should ensure Flacco has to do a lot less dink and dunking in 2017.
Obviously, Maclin has to stay healthy if he’s going to help, though. He battled a groin injury throughout last season, en route to the worst stats of his NFL career: 44 receptions, 536 yards, two TDs.
“I got something to prove,” Maclin told 610sports.com back in March, as he delayed his honeymoon so he could attend OTAs. “I struggled a little bit last year, you know, with injuries and everything else. I’m healthy and I’m looking forward to getting this thing back on the road.”
This is typically a caveat when a team signs a high-profile player this time of year. Injuries, age, off-field issues ... any number of factors can play into why a useful veteran is without a team come June or July. That said, there were few people—if any outside of Kansas City—expecting Maclin to be available.
The Ravens were not alone in chasing him. ESPN’s Josina Anderson reported Monday that the Eagles were a finalist for Maclin’s services, and the Bills also had been linked to the talented receiver.
To his credit, Maclin would have been seen as a fit just about anywhere. He is a talented slot weapon, but he’s not limited to playing there. He’ll line up outside and make things happen, an important skill set for the Ravens’ purposes given the rocky start to Perriman’s career. While the Ravens no doubt are eyeing a plethora of three-wide sets, Maclin simply could usurp Perriman’s spot, should the younger receiver struggle.
No matter Baltimore’s exact plans for Maclin, it should be giving thanks for his surprise availability. The only other additions to the receiving corps this off-season, to date, had been a host of undrafted free agents: Tim White, Quincy Adeboyejo, Tim Patrick, etc. While there might be a diamond among the rough, there was nothing near a sure thing. As of a few days ago, the Ravens were going to be leaning on Wallace, Perriman, Michael Campanaro, Chris Moore, Chris Matthews and any other up-and-comer who emerged during the preseason.
Now, they have another proven playmaker to fold into their attack. Maclin needs to be better, and healthier, than he was a season ago. But, on paper, he’s what the Ravens needed.