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Could the Buffalo Bills sign free agent wideout Jeremy Maclin?

The 29-year-old wideout could make an impact with the Bills.

As you may have heard, the Kansas City Chiefs made the surprise decision yesterday to release wide receiver Jeremy Maclin.

As you also may be aware, the Buffalo Bills have something of a fluid situation at the wide receiver position right now. Sammy Watkins is suddenly in a contract year, Zay Jones sprained his knee during OTAs, and the rest of the depth chart does little to inspire confidence.

That begs the question: could the Bills make a run at Maclin?

There are a few points that need to be explored first.

Why did the Chiefs cut Maclin?

It’s hard to say, but the only clear benefit right now is a financial one.

The Chiefs cleared up $10 million in cap room by releasing Maclin. They could push some of that savings into next season, which would make sense considering that there aren’t a whole lot of players left on the market to spend on.

There was also a noticeable decline in Maclin’s production last season. He played in three fewer games in 2016 than he did in 2015, but still saw his receptions and yardage decline by about half while finding the end zone six fewer times.

The build of the Chiefs’ roster didn’t really suit Maclin’s skill set, either. Maclin has always been more of a field-stretcher, something that isn’t terribly useful when Alex Smith is your quarterback. Travis Kelce is going to be their top receiving option until they hand the keys over to Patrick Mahomes (and maybe even after that), while rookie Tyreek Hill emerged last season as a viable number one receiver in that offense.

It’s hard to justify paying $12 million to your third receiving option, so here we are.

Would Maclin fit on the Bills?

Absolutely, at the right price.

As long as he’s on the field, Sammy Watkins is the top receiver on the Bills. That’s hard to guarantee, however, after last season’s injury. Given that it’s reportedly the reason they declined to pick up his fifth-year option, it’s hard to place a bet on him playing all 16 games this year.

Let’s set that aside for a moment, though, and assume we’ll see a healthy Watkins for all of 2017. Maclin would still have a place as the No. 2 receiver in this offense. Watkins can stretch the field, sure, but his strength is that he can make plays from pretty much any route. Maclin has always been more of a field stretcher: he’s one of four receivers with at least 40 catches and 12 yards per catch in seven of the last eight seasons. Allowing Maclin to be a more exclusive deep option (something that would do wonders for Tyrod Taylor) would free up Watkins to work screens and the middle of the field, where he’s arguably better than he is on deep routes.

Signing Maclin as a No. 2 would also allow the Bills to run Jones out of the slot early on. The knock on Jones has been that, while he’s accumulated an astounding number of catches, his route tree is fairly limited, and he’s not going to make a whole lot of plays down the field. If Maclin can fill that need, Jones can work with the shorter routes early in his NFL career. That would allow him to build a certain comfort level with NFL defenses while playing the role that allowed him to rack up an FBS-record 399 career receptions.

Would the Bills make the move? Would Maclin?

This is where things start to get a little sketchy.

It’s important to note that the man calling the shots in Kansas City (more or less) is Sean McDermott’s mentor, Andy Reid. If there’s some underlying reason that Maclin was cut loose, or if there was some locker room trouble that didn’t make the press, McDermott can find out. McDermott should also be familiar with Maclin, as he was the defensive coordinator for the Philadelphia Eagles during Maclin’s first two seasons with the team. Brandon Beane may be making the final decisions on the roster, but if McDermott doesn’t want Maclin on the Bills, it probably won’t happen.

Would Maclin come to Buffalo? Maybe. One of his closest friends is LeSean McCoy, who would absolutely be in his ear if he thought it would be a good fit. He should have options, but there aren’t very many teams with a lot of cap space left who would give him a prominent role right away. The Bills have plenty of cap space right now, so finances shouldn’t get in the way of a deal, although long-term considerations may play a role if negotiations make it that far.

Will Jeremy Maclin be a Buffalo Bill?


If I were in Beane’s shoes, the first thing I’d do is talk to McDermott to see if there’s any reason not to sign him. Assuming that went well, I’d be on the horn with Maclin’s agent, trying to work out a one or two-year deal at about $6-7 million a season.

Of course, I’m not the Bills’ general manager, and Maclin can sign with whatever team wants to offer him a deal. That said, it’s definitely something worth monitoring.