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Exploring the Kansas City Chiefs options at WR after cutting Jeremy Maclin

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NFL: Chicago Bears at Kansas City Chiefs Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

In what’s famously known as the “Friday Night Surprise,” (or at least that’s what I’m calling it) the Kansas City Chiefs cut veteran wide receiver Jeremy Maclin. But you all know that by now.

It was a move that virtually nobody saw coming, and most say it wasn’t a good move. In a very unscientific poll ran by Joel, 70 percent of Chiefs fans (4,570 votes) said releasing Maclin was a bad idea. Arrowhead Pride’s MNchiefsfan hated the move, too.

Even Alex Smith chimed in, saying he was “shocked” that KC released the 29-year-old Maclin. The Chiefs have now lost two players—Maclin and Jamaal Charles—that were largely loved and respected by Chiefs players and fans.

Cutting Maclin may have been a business decision, or maybe it was something else. At the end of the day, though, this was a huge move that put shock into the chemistry of this team. “He (Maclin) and I both have been playing a long time,” Smith said. “We’ve been around this a long time so in a sense, I get it. You say it’s a business and you hear that, but for us as teammates, it’s not. It’s very personal. I was just at his wedding.”

Aside from whether or not you liked the move, the Chiefs must move forward and so should we. As it appears now, the Chiefs wide receiver corps just got weaker. So let’s examine a couple options KC has at the position moving ahead.

Keep things in-house and develop the young guys

As of right now, the current wide receivers on the Chiefs roster that expect to play a big role in 2017 consist of Tyreek Hill, Chris Conley and Albert Wilson. Three more receivers, Jehu Chesson, Demarcus Robinson and De’Anthony Thomas, have a shot at doing some good things, too. Realistically, the top three for KC will be Hill, Conley and Wilson (or Robinson, depending on how that third spot shakes out). Throw in Travis Kelce at tight end and that’s who will be catching footballs from Smith in 2017 if KC stays pat and doesn’t add another someone else.

The Chiefs receiving group was already an average one in 2016. Granted, there wasn’t a ton of production from Maclin that needs to be “replaced,” but many thought he was going to bounce back in 2017.

But the reality is, Maclin’s gone. It’s reasonable to expect that Tyreek lives up to his rookie season, who is now set up to get a bigger workload. On 83 targets and 61 receptions, Hill had 593 receiving yards and six touchdowns.

As for the rest of the wide receivers, it’s really a mystery. Conley has the potential, and has shown it, but no one is really sure when he’ll take that next step (or if he ever will). Wilson hasn’t done much of anything to write home about, either, in his three-year NFL career with just four touchdowns.

So aside from Hill’s respectable output at the position, here’s what Smith has to work with in his receivers in 2017 (remember, this doesn’t include Kelce) ...

2016 Chiefs Wide Receiver Stats

Player Targets Receptions Yards Yards/Reception Touchdowns
Player Targets Receptions Yards Yards/Reception Touchdowns
Tyreek Hill 83 61 593 9.7 6
Chris Conley 69 44 530 12 0
Albert Wislon 51 31 279 9 2
De'Anthony Thomas 9 7 35 5 0
Demarcus Robinson 0 0 0 0 0
Jehu Chesson (with Michigan) N/A 35 500 14.3 2
TOTAL 212 178 1,937 10.9 10

For reference, Atlanta Falcons’ wide receiver Julio Jones had 1,871 receiving yards in 2015 and 1,409 in 2016. Look, I’m not saying any player on the Chiefs roster has to stack up to Jones, but the Falcons did make it to the Super Bowl, largely in part to a serious weapon for Matt Ryan to throw to. It’d be nice for Smith to have a consistent, reliable threat, right? Maybe Tyreek can be that guy, but he’s got just one season to go off of.

In a best-case-scenario, Maclin would have hovered around 1,000 yards this year with the Chiefs. Even more than bringing the yardage, Maclin carried a veteran presence to the group. Guys looked up to Maclin.

To fill the void of a veteran receiver, it’s possible that the Chiefs could go out and make another move.

KC could sign a free agent wide receiver

There are few notable free agent receivers out there that the Chiefs could entertain the idea of bringing in. Vincent Jackson, Eddie Royal, Stevie Johnson, Anquan Boldin and Percy Harvin are a few.

Harvin is the only one of those five receivers under the age of 30. Maybe ... maybe ... one of these guys could provide a veteran answer and some “distraction” from Tyreek on the field. But there’s a reason they’re all free agents in early June. I’m not going to dive into the numbers, but Boldin had the best output in 2016 with 584 receiving yards and eight touchdowns.

Where do the Chiefs go from here? Honestly, it’s hard to predict what John Dorsey will do right now. Could they use the $10 million saved from Maclin to go out and sign a player that’s not a receiver? Sure, but that won’t necessarily fill the void left by Maclin.

We’ll just have to wait and see what happens, but until then, there’s a presence lacking after Maclin’s departure, both on and off the field. The Chiefs didn’t get better with this move, that’s the bottom line ... for now.

Poll

What should the Chiefs do with their situation at wide receiver?

This poll is closed

  • 51%
    Work with what they currently have on the roster.
    (1465 votes)
  • 48%
    Go outside the team and look for a veteran to compliment the young players.
    (1363 votes)
2828 votes total Vote Now