KANSAS CITY, Mo. – When Andy Reid sat down with general manager John Dorsey to discuss personnel at the conclusion of the Chiefs 2014 season, the Chiefs head coach saw one name on the list of possible unrestricted free agents that grabbed his attention:
Philadelphia wide receiver Jeremy Maclin.
Reid selected Maclin out of the University of Missouri in the first round of the 2009 NFL Draft. With the exception of the 2013 season that he missed because of a torn ACL in his right knee, Maclin was a big-play performer for the Eagles as a receiver and returner.
Reid knew him well, but he also felt that there was little chance the Chiefs could sign him.
“I thought he was staying (with the Eagles),” Reid said. “Really up until he came here, I thought that’s what was going to happen. I didn’t pay much attention. He did a great job there and I know he wanted to stay, so I just figured that was going to get done. He really wasn’t on our board because of that.”
As time has shown through this 2015 NFL season, the personnel situation was fluid around the Eagles under recently fired head coach Chip Kelly. Ultimately, Maclin signed a 5-year, $55 million deal with the Chiefs, joining offensive talents like DeSean Jackson and LeSean McCoy that also left the Philadelphia roster in Kelly’s tenure.
In the spectrum of receiving numbers from the 2015 NFL season, what Maclin has posted with the Chiefs barely raises a ripple across the league:
- 84 catches, ranked No. 11.
- 1,034 receiving yards, ranked No. 19.
- 7 touchdown catches, tied for No. 21.
Those statistics pale in comparison to pass catchers like Julio Jones in Atlanta, Antonio Brown with Pittsburgh, Odell Beckham with the New York Giants and others. Yet, no wide receiver has had a greater impact on his franchise in the current season than Maclin.
Point of evidence 1: last year the Chiefs did not have a touchdown catch from a wide receiver, an unprecedented example of offensive failure in the league’s last 50 years. Right now, K.C.’s wideouts have 11 touchdowns, seven of those from Maclin.
Point of evidence 2: the Chiefs have won nine straight going into Sunday’s regular-season finale, and the Chiefs have done it without their top offensive playmaker, running back Jamaal Charles. Winning didn’t happen in previous seasons when Charles was sidelined because the Chiefs did not have another playmaker to fill the void.
Now they do, as Maclin gives them an explosive veteran that has been an offensive weapon since Andy Reid drafted him at Philadelphia. No other Chiefs player has been in the end zone as much as Maclin since Charles went down on October 11 with a torn ACL in his right knee.
Maclin’s performance validated the Chiefs decision to sign him as an unrestricted free agent. To make that happen under the NFL’s salary cap, Reid and general manager John Dorsey had to part ways with K.C. veteran Dwayne Bowe, who they signed just 12 months earlier to a five-year, $56 million deal.
“He was a good player before he came here; he’s still a good player,” Reid said of Maclin. “But he not only brings the playing part of it, the actual physical part of making plays, but there’s a certain attitude he brings with that too. So that’s good to have and we’re glad we have him.”
Quarterback Alex Smith agreed.
“I think he is a heck of a player,” Smith said. “It seems like every week we look back at the film and I felt like I could have gone Jeremy’s way more because he just consistently wins. Even when they try and take him away, he consistently wins. He’s that type of player.”
There were a handful of sought-after wide receivers that changed teams as free agents going into the 2015 season. Maclin has out-performed all of them through 15 games:
- Jeremy Maclin, Chiefs from Philadelphia, 84 catches, 1,034 yards, 7 TD receptions.
- Michael Crabtree, Oakland from San Francisco, 82-888-8.
- Torrey Smith, San Francisco from Baltimore, 28-602-4.
- Brian Hartline, Cleveland from Miami, 46-523-2.
- Stevie Johnson, San Diego from San Francisco, 45-497-3.
- Cecil Shorts, Houston from Jacksonville, 42-484-2.
- Andre Johnson, Indianapolis from Houston, 37-457-3.
- Eddie Royal, Chicago from San Diego, 37-238-1.
- Percy Harvin, Buffalo from New York Jets, 19-218-1.
- Greg Jennings, Miami from Minnesota, 15-134-1
The relationship that’s developed between Smith and Maclin has grown on a weekly basis and could be seen in their touchdown connection last Sunday against Cleveland. On the 13-yard play, Smith had to throw past three defenders into the back of the end zone where Maclin grabbed the ball.
“There’s a trust that Jeremy’s going to be able to get open and in a tight, tight window, that’s not always easy to do,” said Reid. “You’ve got to create space at times and then you have to know that he can make all the catches – whether it’s down low, high, back shoulder. All that goes into it. There is an aptitude part to that.”
The duo spent a lot of time together from the moment in March when Maclin rejoined Reid.
“From Day One, I felt like we were off to a great start and I feel like we’ll continue to trust each other and continue to build that chemistry,” Maclin said. “He’s a great quarterback.”
The Chiefs also say Maclin has made them a better group with his team-first attitude that does not have him keeping track of targets, catches or touchdowns.
“The great thing about him is that he is all team first,” Smith said. “All he cares about is wining. Credit to him, I think it shows how smart he is besides the talent that he has. He sees things so well. He sees it like a quarterback.”
That touchdown against Cleveland was another snapshot showing the connection between Smith and his No. 1 receiver.
“There are a lot of adjustments that could be happening in that route and he sees it the exact same way you do and you trust that he is,” said Smith. “I think that comes with time. I think with me, it’s proven that Jeremy sees it very well. He’s going to make good decisions out there.”
Bob Gretz is the senior editor for ChiefsDigest.com. Use the contact page to reach him or find him on Twitter: @BobGretzcom.