Only two weeks ago, Jeremy Maclin spoke cheerfully about new beginnings, and a desire to bounce back after a disappointing 2016 season.
He smiled a lot, and was noticeably optimistic and upbeat. He’d just been married in front of several friends, family and teammates, a group that included coach Andy Reid.
But on Friday evening, any grandiose dreams Maclin had about a bounce-back season in Kansas City appeared to evaporate, as the Chiefs announced the veteran receiver’s release — a move that clears millions in cap room for 2017.
“I’d like to thank Jeremy for his effort and dedication the past two seasons,” Chiefs general manager John Dorsey said in a statement. “I have great respect for all players, which makes decisions like these very difficult, but we felt it was in the best interest of our club moving forward to part ways at this time. We wish Jeremy the best as he continues his career.”
Reid echoed those words in a statement.
“These decisions are never easy, especially with a player like Jeremy who I’ve grown close with on and off the football field over the years,” Reid said. “I have a lot of respect for the way he goes about his business and how he handles himself as a professional. I wish him the best of luck moving forward.”
Maclin also took to Twitter to address his fans after the announcement.
“Crazy business this is ... appreciate y’all,” Maclin tweeted.
Maclin’s release, since it came after June 1, clears $10 million in cap room for the Chiefs, who had approximately $3.5 million prior to his release, according to the NFL Players Association. Mike Garafalo of NFL Network reported the Chiefs dangled Maclin’s name in trade talks before the move, but never asked him to take a pay cut.
The Chiefs will also have $2.4 million in dead money this year due to the release of Maclin, and $4.8 million in 2018. The Chiefs will still save a net of $8.6 million on the cap in 2018, which is needed; according to OverTheCap.com, the Chiefs are still over the projected 2018 salary cap of $178 million by approximately $638,000, even with Maclin’s release.
But for the Chiefs, there are other benefits to releasing Maclin now, other than saving approximately $32 million in non-guaranteed cash — including part of a $250,000 workout bonus he won’t receive due to the timing of his release – they owed him from 2017 through 2019.
First off, they create enough space to help sign their draft picks. Salary cap expert Joel Corry said the Chiefs’ top three 2017 draft picks — quarterback Patrick Mahomes II, defensive end Tanoh Kpassagnon and running back Kareem Hunt — should take up approximately $4.4 million in 2017 cap space, and the Chiefs only had $3.5 million prior to the move. Those three, by the way, remain unsigned.
The Chiefs also create enough cap room for an “emergency” fund — which is approximately $5 million — something every team does, and this specific transaction move also opens up the possibility to create more cap space next year, since whatever money the Chiefs don’t use this year will roll over toward next year’s cap — where they are already cash-strapped.
“They had the most cap commitments of anyone in the league for 2018 prior to the move,” Corry said. “They’re going to have to do something else next year. They’re not in good shape, cap-wise.”
Maclin, 29, had a down year in 2016, finishing tied for third on the team in catches (44) and third in yards (536). He also missed four games due to a groin injury, a stint in which the Chiefs went 3-1 in his absence, but when he did play, he struggled to rekindle his connection with quarterback Alex Smith, as the two appeared to be uncharacteristically out of sync at times.
It was a far cry from 2015, when Maclin — who was lured from Philadelphia with a five-year, $55 million free-agent deal — scored a team-high eight touchdowns, posted the club’s highest single-season reception total (87) since 2008 and became the first Chief to eclipse 1,000 yards receiving (1,088) in four years.
With Maclin out of the mix, Tyreek Hill and Chris Conley figure to be the top returners at the position, along with Albert Wilson, Jehu Chesson, Demarcus Robinson and De’Anthony Thomas.
“They must have a lot of confidence in those guys,” Corry said. “You can also sign a guy for the veteran minimum for about $695,000. But the question is who is that going to be?”
The market is a little higher for established veterans with track records. Anquan Boldin, for example, was a late signee with Detroit last season who made about $3 million and caught 67 passes for 584 yards and eight touchdowns at age 36.
Maclin, who just turned 29, would figure to find a job fairly easy. He’s looked spry in offseason practices, and has worked consistently with the first-string offense in offseason workouts. A week ago, he spoke firmly about his determination to return to form in 2017.
“It just wasn’t up to my standards — it wasn’t up to my standards,” Maclin said at the time. “I’ve never been a stat guy. I’ve never been a guy to say, ‘I want this, I want that.’
“I just … I didn’t play as well as I could have. And by not playing well, I feel like I let my team down. And that’s the most important part of it.”
The decision to cut Maclin comes a year after they club forfeited its third-round draft pick in 2016 and sixth-round pick in 2017 after the league said the Chiefs tampered when they had direct contact with Maclin during the pre-free agency negotiating period in March 2015. That’s when the Chiefs were courting Maclin, who was then under contract with the Philadelphia Eagles.