Buffalo Bills: Fans shouldn’t freak out about Jeremy Maclin

Jan 15, 2017; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Jeremy Maclin (19) warms up for the game against the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC Divisional playoff game at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 15, 2017; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Jeremy Maclin (19) warms up for the game against the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC Divisional playoff game at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports /

The Buffalo Bills missed out on a great wide receiver in free agency. That doesn’t mean all is lost.

A few days ago, #Maclinwatch came to an end when wide receiver Jeremy Maclin picked the Baltimore Ravens over the Buffalo Bills. This came despite a very public push by Tyrod Taylor and LeSean McCoy, and the fact that Maclin had a lengthy meeting with the Bills.

They even had the cap space to afford a responsible deal.

Throw in the connections Maclin would’ve had to the Bills staff (including head coach Sean McDermott and wide-receivers-turned-quarterback-coach David Culley), and it should’ve been an easy pick-up for Buffalo.

But it wasn’t, and some of the details emerging make it seem like the choice wasn’t even close. While the media narrative presented Maclin’s decision as being between Buffalo or Baltimore, that apparently wasn’t the case:

Yeah, that’s disheartening. And it’s not made any better when fans consider the circumstances. Here, the Bills had a wide-open shot at locking up the player where the money, connections and position dictated they had an advantage. Yet Maclin slipped right through their hands, destined to be a Raven in 2017.

Now is about the time where the “woe-is-me” talk can begin. Why can’t Buffalo sign premier free agents? Is it because we always lose and no one wants to come here? Why can’t the Buffalo Bills stop losing?

That of course, is not my opinion, but it’s easy for the minds of pessimists to go there. What they don’t realize is there’s no reason to worry at all about this. In fact, missing out on the Maclin lottery could be a good thing for the Buffalo Bills.

That statement sounds crazy, but consider this: Jeremy Maclin was always going to be a luxury signing for the Buffalo Bills. Yes, they have a poor wide receiver corp headlined by an injury-prone Sammy Watkins and rookie Zay Jones. Beyond that, the depth is just okay. Signing Maclin would’ve given the Bills at least a great number two wide out, and an emergency number one if Watkins went down.

But this is a run-first offense, and what’s the point of over-paying for a number-two receiver in those? At that point, you’re repeating the mistake of the Los Angeles Rams, who signed former Bills wideout Robert Woods to a massive contract he didn’t earn.

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Yes, Maclin posted good, if not great stats in 2014 and 2015. He had back-to-back 1,000 yard-plus seasons with Nick Foles, Mark Sanchez and Alex Smith as his quarterbacks. Not to mention he was always a consistent contributor since coming into the league in 2009. There is still a pretty good wide receiver in that body.

But whose to say Zay Jones can’t fill the role of a valuable number two? That’s what Maclin would be doing anyway. Not to mention contributors like Andre Holmes, Rod Streater and Philly Brown will be there to keep NFL defenses honest. Simply put, the Bills have enough okay receivers to balance out the production of losing out on a pretty good one.

When one looks at the totality of Maclin’s career, it begins to make sense. In his whole career, minus 2014, he’s flirted with around 700-1,000 yards a season. That indicates a player that can contribute and move the chains, but isn’t quite a number one choice. Sammy Watkins, who is injured and inconsistent, only has one less 1,000 yard season after just three years in the league.

Yes, not worrying also requires hope that things will work out. Fans need to believe (or Billieve, if you’re into that), that their draft pick Zay Jones will develop into a true receiving threat. They’ll also need to hope that the veterans brought on will contribute.

But building a quality team starts with these steps. It also includes not making impulsive splashes in free agency just to win the off-season. I’d rather Sean McDermott builds a team of underpaid overachievers than overpaid underachievers. Considering his injury-fraught, poor 2016 campaign (44 receptions for 536 yards and two touchdowns), it’s definitely possible Maclin could’ve been the latter.

Missing out on Jeremy Maclin can actually benefit the Buffalo Bills in other areas as well. They now have extra cap space to spend, meaning they could use the money to bring in defensive line or linebacker depth. Or they could find another cheap, veteran wide receiver in free agency. Don’t discount how small, unheralded signings and a focus on late-round draft picks can build a team.

The New England Patriots are proof.

Yes, it might hurt right now to see the Bills play bridesmaid (or Billsmaid), but Sean McDermott wants to build a great team, not just make big free agent signings. Ask the Jacksonville Jaguars how that’s worked out for them.

Next: Should the Bills take another look at Gary Barnidge?

Do YOU think Bills fans should worry about losing out on Jeremy Maclin? Leave your comments below!