"This is the perfect situation."
That was one of the first things Kansas City Chiefs veteran receiver Jeremy Maclin said at his opening press conference back on March 11 after signing a long-term deal with the Chiefs.
It was the perfect situation for many reasons:
- The proximity to his hometown and family (about three hours)
- The proximity to where he played in college (Mizzou)
- A reunion with much of the same coaching staff from when he was drafted back in 2009
- He was needed and he was properly compensated
The lack of touchdowns from the receiver position was a national storyline that followed the Chiefs up until the point in which Maclin was signed, and after his first season—one that saw his second career season of 1,000-plus yards with 8 touchdowns—that storyline now seems like a distant memory.
Shortly after saying it was the perfect situation, Maclin also said he was here to help take the Chiefs to the next level.
It's fair to say both of those statements have proven to be accurate.
Maclin stepped in and produced the way general manager John Dorsey and coach Andy Reid expected him to when he signed that deal.
Here's a look at all of the wide receivers who were included in NFL.com’s Top 101 free agents available before the 2015 free agency period began and how they ultimately fared with their respective teams last season.
NFL.com's Top Available Free Agent WRs in 2015
Kansas City Chiefs
San Francisco 49ers
St. Louis Rams
New York Giants
Maclin had the best season of any of these players, and it's due in large part to the chemistry he quickly developed with quarterback Alex Smith. Maclin explained during OTAs that of all the quarterbacks he had played with in his career, he and Smith were off to the best start.
That proved to be more than just talk as Maclin finished the season with 87 receptions, which was a franchise record for a receiver in a single season.
With three games of more than 140 yards receiving last season as well, Maclin established himself as a bona fide No. 1 receiver in an offense that is built upon the ability to spread it around to different guys. That's one of Alex Smith's strengths—making the right decision with the ball and not necessarily just forcing it to one player.
As we saw throughout the season, more often than not, Maclin was the right decision because he'd built a game around getting open and using every bit of his 6-foot, 200-pound frame to find a hole in the defense. He could be moved around to different spots—playing inside or outside—and he had the mental acuity to understand what defensive looks he was getting on any given play.
Maclin spoke about not only reading his defender when he was running a route, but also checking the linebackers and safeties to understand what the entire defense was doing against a particular play. This is what gave him the information he needed to be in the right place for Smith, who would often see the field the same way.
"It's all about trust," Maclin explained. "He trusts me; I trust him. We're able to get together and communicate and talk about certain things on the football field. I think that's the type of relationship you want with your quarterback."
A look at some of the top photos of Jeremy Maclin throughout the 2015 season.
His knowledge of the offense, precise route-running ability and natural ability to catch the football made him the perfect player to step in and lead a young receivers group.
Besides fellow veteran Jason Avant, no other receiver in that room had more than two years of experience, meaning much of the needed leadership would ultimately fall on both Maclin and Avant.
"He's the kind of player and the kind of person that you want to build with," receiver coach David Culley said of Maclin right after he signed with the Chiefs. "You know he can take you to where you want to go."
Those statements have proven to be true.
Maclin's best individual performance from a statistical standpoint came against the Buffalo Bills back in Week 12, when he grabbed 11 passes for 160 yards and a touchdown.
"We had some opportunities earlier in the year on some deep balls and just missed them," Smith noted after the 30-22 win over the Bills. "[Maclin] has done a great job of just continuing to win out there and always staying hungry. I was finally able to connect with him today and give him an opportunity.
"He's the type of player that is going to win those battles, especially with the ball in the air."
Maclin has often described his mindset of making a play as simply being "accountable" to his teammates. They expect him to make those plays and he expects to make every play.
There's a certain level of confidence that exudes from Maclin when he describes his style of play on the field. He runs that line between confident and cocky in the exact kind of way you'd expect from a player of his caliber.
"He's not backing down from anybody," Reid said of Maclin.
The bottom line is that Maclin has backed up everything he's said from the day he first arrived in Kansas City. It has been the perfect situation and he did help take the Chiefs to the next level.
And he's already getting ready for 2016.