Free-agent receiver Jeremy Maclin made two trips last week after being released by the Kansas City Chiefs, stopping in Buffalo and Baltimore but departing before reaching a deal with either the Bills or the Ravens.
Bills coach Sean McDermott, involved in roster decisions with general manager Brandon Beane, offered few details Thursday about why Maclin is still without a new team a week after being cut.
"We had a nice visit," McDermott said. "Jeremy and I, as well as some other members of our staff, overlapped in Philadelphia for a couple of years there. Jeremy’s a very good person and a good football player and really, that’s all I’m going to say at this point. Really don’t want to get into the other parts of it, just want to keep that between us and the player at this point."
As the wait for a resolution on Maclin's future continues, here are some questions the Bills must ponder as they navigate the unusual circumstance of a starting-quality wide receiver being available in June:
Would signing Maclin change the Bills' fate this season? In a vacuum, the idea of signing Maclin is appealing to many Bills fans and an excited LeSean McCoy, who posted multiple videos to Instagram last week during Maclin's visit of his "recruitment" of his ex-Eagles teammate. A receiver who posted back-to-back 1,000-yard receiving seasons in 2014 and 2015 should make the Bills better, right? Undoubtedly. However, McDermott and Beane must weigh -- and certainly have -- the short-term benefits of signing Maclin against the long-term costs. Maclin would provide insurance in case of another injury to top wideout Sammy Watkins, instantly become the favorite to start opposite Watkins at receiver and would add another talented offensive player for defenses to game plan against. But the latest ESPN Football Power Index projects the Bills to win only 6.8 games this season. Would signing Maclin gain the Bills the additional two or three wins it will take to make the playoffs? Doubtful. If Maclin is signed to short-term deal -- especially a one-year contract -- it more than likely would hurt the Bills' 2018 draft position and take a chunk out of their unused 2017 salary-cap space that could be carried over in 2018. Not all fans like to take the long-range view, but that is something McDermott and Beane must consider.
Do the Bills need Maclin to properly evaluate Tyrod Taylor? No decision will be more pivotal for McDermott and Beane in their first years in charge of the Bills than what happens with Taylor. He is signed through only 2018 and is due a $6 million roster bonus next March, allowing the Bills to release him before that date and save the potential expenditure. While the Bills' new brain trust has made little commitment to Taylor in either words or dollars, he is still the quarterback. That puts Taylor in the spotlight for evaluation this season. Last season, Taylor dealt with injuries to Watkins and No. 2 receiver Robert Woods, in addition to losing No. 3 receiver Chris Hogan the previous offseason. Upon taking his $10 million pay cut in March, Taylor was not shy about his lack of reliable targets at receiver, telling the Bills' official radio program, "Hopefully we can bring in some guys [at receiver]. We definitely have some guys on the roster, as well, too. But the more talent the better. I put my faith and my trust in the coaches and the management, that they'll bring in some guys that can create some plays for us." Taylor was similarly open last week at McCoy's golf tournament about how he would make it known to coaches the Bills could use Maclin's services. The best situation for Taylor's career is for Maclin to join the team. Likewise, if the Bills want a proper evaluation of Taylor, it will help to have top-line talent around him.
Would the Bills commit to Maclin as Watkins' replacement? Signing Maclin to a one-year deal would align the contracts of Watkins and Maclin, who would project as the Bills' top two receivers this season. Both players' deals would expire after the 2017 season, creating a situation where the Bills could likely afford to bring back only one player in 2018 -- or perhaps neither. The alternative would be signing Maclin to a multiyear deal at his current market price, avoiding a scenario in which Buffalo would need to get into a bidding war for him in unrestricted free agency next March. In that case, Maclin would essentially become Watkins' replacement in 2018 as the Bills' No. 1 receiver. Second-round pick Zay Jones would then project as the No. 2 receiver in 2018. In short, signing Maclin to a one-year deal would keep open the possibility of Watkins returning in 2018, while signing Maclin to a multiyear contract would likely spell the end of Watkins' time in Buffalo after this season.