This is one of those interesting times where an introduction isn’t really necessary, given the title and subject matter. However, given the rules of writing about all things sports on the interweb require me to introduce the topic, I shall.
I already wrote in February that Jeremy Maclin was getting open against Pittsburgh (and since then I have observed more of the same while reviewing other players, though I could be mistaken as I wasn’t focused on him), so let me just say this: as far as I could tell in a I’m-not-focusing-on-that-guy kind of way, Maclin absolutely looked like he was back to running slick routes well down the stretch last year. So all of what you are about to read is in part based on what I observed.
I hate this move. Absolutely hate it. There are many reasons why.
(Quick note: given that Andy Reid has always loved Maclin, there could be more going on here than meets the eye. However, I can only go off what I know. So here we go...)
It makes the offense worse
Unless Chris Conley is about to take a huge step forward and Tyreek Hill is absolutely ready to be what we hope he is AND another receiver is ready to step up big time, this move makes the Chiefs offense worse in 2017.
Even if you’re an optimistic soul regarding Conley (there’s some reason to be, I think) and Hill (definitely reason to be in his case), having a guy who knows how to get open and catch the football on your team is still a good thing. Even IF your younger guys develop, the basic truth is that 3 > 2 (I know, #analysis). And so even if the best case scenario happens with Conley and Hill, the truth is the Chiefs run a ton of three wide receiver sets and are now short a receiver.
Could another guy just break out? Sure, it happens. But then you could have FOUR good receivers. Following my logic? There is no scenario in which the offense is better off for losing a good wide receiver.
It removes a guy who has been a good influence on younger receivers
Two years running Jeremy Maclin has taken the young receivers on the roster under his wing to work out with them in the offseason. This last year, we appeared to see some benefits to this with Conley as his route running looked sharper.
I understand that coaches coach and players play, but there’s a benefit to a guy like Maclin, who is willing to show younger players the tricks of the trade. This is especially big at wide receiver, where footwork and nuance are so, so vital to gaining that extra tenth of a second in separation.
Maclin is, by all accounts, a fantastic example to younger players. He’s an extremely good route runner and knows how to deal with every kind of man and zone coverage. Guys like that don’t grow on trees, and guys like that can be a big help to a young WR group like the one the Chiefs have. And now, he’s gone.
It means another big failure by Dorsey at the wide receiver spot and with dead money
I’m not a big “sunk cost” guy, and John Dorsey has done a TON of good as the Chiefs’ general manager, but the record now at the wide receiver spot is borderline abysmal.
First, the Chiefs gave Dwayne Bowe an absolutely massive contract that he proceeded to not even come close to earning. The released him way, way early and only recently came out from underneath the MASSIVE amount of dead money that deal cost them.
And now, finally free of that dead money, they have to deal with dead money this year (per Spotrac $2.4 million) and next year ($4.8 million).
Let’s talk about the dead money issue first. Again, Dorsey has done a lot of good things, but keeping the Chiefs free of dead money (money counting against the cap but not going towards a current player) has not been one of them. I’ve defended Dorsey on this point over the last few years as the dead money has fallen a bit, especially with Bowe’s contract going away, but with this cut and the Jaye Howard cut it appears they’re heading right back to the same place - spending money without getting anything back.
You want to know one reason why it seems like the Broncos are constantly flush with cash? Part if it has been timing of breakout players, sure, but some of it is that they avoid dead money. Dorsey hasn’t seemed to get this part of things down yet, and this is a discouraging step backwards.
Now, about wide receiver ... again, Dorsey has done a very good overall job. But the wide receiver position has been by and large a big bowl of meh. Bowe’s contract was an unmitigated failure. Donnie Avery was subpar for the most part. Albert Wilson repeatedly keeps getting asked to do more than he can (by all appearances). Jason Avant wasn’t even a band-aid (though he was one of about five guys who came to play against the Patriots in the playoffs, so good for him).
And now we’ve got Maclin, a guy they were SO SURE about that they got actual tampering charges trying to make sure they landed him and lost draft picks over the whole thing. Now, two years later? Gone. That’s absolutely crazy. They were desperate to snag this guy, and his first year with the team made it look like a great move. Now? They’re eating dead money and apparently don’t think they need him. Again, the guy they wanted so badly they tampered against league rules.
It’s not QUITE as big a disaster as Bowe’s contract because at least Maclin had one very good year. But it’s still a disaster, and not a small one.
I trust John Dorsey, but on the surface this looks like another large-scale failure to address the wide receiver spot. Now, if Conley and Hill break out and Robinson (or anyone, really) fills in very well as the third guy, fine. But there’s no other way to spin cutting a guy after two years after all they went through to get him other than a huge failure.
The timing really jerks around a good guy
I’m sure the Chiefs didn’t INTEND to mess with Maclin, but they absolutely did.
The problem with suddenly being a free agent this time of year is that rosters are a lot more settled than they are at the beginning of the league year. There’s a reason the huge contracts are doled out then. Now that teams have made a plan for the season, they’re not nearly as willing (generally) to shell out big bucks.
The Chiefs could have released Maclin any time with a designation as a post-June 1 cut, and they would be in the same boat. Maclin? He’s absolutely not going to get as good a contract as he otherwise would have.
I understand this is a business and Maclin is well-compensated, but this kind of bites. Maclin, as I talked about before, has been a complete stand-up guy during his time in Kansas City. He’s worked hard, done all the extra stuff, helped with younger players, and publicly held himself accountable after a tough 2016 season (when he could’ve made a ton of excuses given his circumstances). Crap, the guy postponed his honeymoon to come to voluntary workouts.
I’m sure the team had their reasons (I’m guessing something drastic changed between now and at the end of the season, and I’m guessing we’ll never know what that change is), but this doesn’t sit right with me. A good guy got hosed, and for the life of me I can’t discern the reasoning.
Now again, all of these reasons could be laid to rest when the season starts. Maybe we find out that Maclin just didn’t have it anymore, or we find out that the Chiefs’ young WR corps is way ahead of where anyone expected. Maybe the Chiefs are trying to clear up space to make a big move.
But for now, based on everything I know, this is an absolute head-scratcher by John Dorsey. And one that I very, very much hate.