Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith’s reaction to the release of wide receiver Jeremy Maclin on Friday was the same as the fan base.
“Shocked,” Smith said when he heard the news, just a few minutes before it was presented to the media. “Jeremy is a really good friend, an amazing teammate, so still kind of just processing that he’s not going to be in there with us, a guy that’s done a lot for us the last two years, a guy I’ve grown really close to.”
Maclin, 29, spent two years with the Chiefs, with 2015 more productive than last season, when he finished tied for third on the team in receptions with 44 and third in yards with 536. He missed four games with a groin injury.
In his first year with the Chiefs, Maclin posted the team’s highest single-season receptions total (87) since 2008 and became the first Chief to surpass 1,000 receiving yards (1,088) in four years.
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He was seen as the team’s top wide receiver since the former Philadelphia Eagle signed a five-year, $55 million free-agent deal, and Smith figured that role would continue for Maclin this season.
“Jeremy’s a great person, a great teammate, a great player,” Smith said. “On all those levels, (I’m) just kind of letting that sink in, I guess.”
Maclin’s release clears $10 million in cap room for the Chiefs, who had about $3.5 million before the move.
Smith took time during his football camp at Shawnee Mission West on Saturday to react to address his friend’s departure.
“He played through a lot last year, played through injuries and pushed through trying to help this team,” Smith said. “Obviously as players we don’t get to make these decisions.
“For us, we have to move on a roll as a group. We obviously wish Jeremy well wherever he lands, and he’ll land on his feet.”
The Chiefs created space to help sign their draft picks. Salary cap expert Joel Corry said that the team’s top three picks — quarterback Patrick Mahomes, defensive end Tanoh Kpassagnon and running back Kareem Hunt — should take up $4.4 million in cap space.
Smith, who said he sent Maclin a note on Friday after the announcement, understands the business end of football, but that doesn’t make the move easier to take.
“He and I have been playing a long time, been around this a long time,” Smith said, who along with several other Chiefs players and coaches attended Maclin’s wedding a few weeks ago. “They say it is a business, but obviously for us as teammates it’s not. It’s very personal.”
Without Maclin the most veteran of the Chiefs wide receiving corps is Albert Wilson, starting his fourth season. Tyreek Hill was dynamic as a rookie last season, leading the wide receivers in receptions with 61 and six touchdowns.
Chris Conley had 44 receptions. The other wide receivers are De’Anthony Thomas, Demarcus Robinson and rookie Jehu Chesson.
“Obviously Jeremy was a leader and a veteran presence in that (wide receiver) room,” Smith said. “With that gone a lot of the young guys will have to mature fast, learn from that example and will be able to step up.”