Wide receiver depth has been an issue for the Detroit Lions all offseason. Yes, the team drafted Kenny Golladay in the third round and he has been impressive during OTA practices. But Detroit could use a strong third option.
And a new name, one with intriguing possibilities, just popped onto the market.
Jeremy Maclin would fit the Lions well. The 29-year-old has good speed. At 6-feet, he has played both outside and in the slot and been productive in both areas. In some ways, that makes him like a player the Lions already have, Golden Tate, but Tate is slipperier and more elusive as a short to intermediate receiver.
Bringing a player like Maclin in would give the Lions multiple options in three receiver sets and where to line up tight end Eric Ebron, who often functions as a taller receiver. So it is worth at least inquiring about his services after Kansas City released him on Friday.
Maclin is also a proven player, unlike any other option the Lions have beyond Tate and Marvin Jones. Golladay is a rookie. TJ Jones, Jace Billingsley, Jared Abbrederis and Ryan Spadola all have varying levels of experience, but nothing like Maclin, who has 474 receptions for 6,395 yards and 46 touchdowns. He also has a career drop rate of 2.9 percent, which is workable in the Detroit offense. His production has largely been good, too. Before last season’s 536-yard, two-touchdown performance, he had back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons with 18 combined touchdowns.
If the Lions were to bring him in, it would potentially leave just one slot for a younger receiver other than Golladay to develop. It would turn a competition that is already close and make it extremely cutthroat.
One thing Maclin wouldn’t solve is Detroit’s return question. While he has some experience there, Maclin hasn’t returned a kick since 2010 and has 17 career punt returns, but only four in the past three seasons. But he’s another guy potentially to throw in there – plus signing him could give the Lions some comfort to give Tate, who has been electric as a punt returner in his career, a shot at it because Maclin would be Tate insurance.
This isn’t a no-brainer decision, though, to even pursue him.
Maclin has played a full 16-game season only twice in his career and last year he appeared in a career-worst 12 games after dealing with a groin injury. So the Lions would have to feel somewhat confident with his long-term health.
There’s also the salary question. Would Maclin be willing to play for the Lions at a somewhat reduced rate? While the Lions have around $10 million in cap room after getting money from the DeAndre Levy release, they would be wise to use some of that on contract extensions for current players. Considering Maclin was scheduled to make at least $9.75 million in base salary each year over the next three years from the Chiefs, he might be too expensive. If he’s willing to take drastically less than that, it would be smart for the Lions.
At that type of rate, though, it would be too expensive for Detroit to realistically consider without having to make some other roster moves.
And that’s something the Lions would have to heavily consider before considering this move.