Posted on June 3, 2017, by Travis Pulver
Fans hate to hear it from team and league executives, but it’s true. Football is not just a game the NFL plays. It is a business. Just like any other business, there are rules to follow and decisions that must be made in accordance with those rules. Sometimes we like them, and sometimes we don’t.
The Kansas City Chiefs probably didn’t like the recent business decision they had to make—releasing wide receiver Jeremy Maclin. But they only had about $3.5 million in salary cap space and needed more.
But why get rid of the only veteran wide receiver you have?
The answer to that question is easy. The Chiefs needed cap space. Maclin was going into the third year of a five-year, $55 million contract and didn’t really produce last season (thanks to a groin injury that caused him to miss four games). He was getting paid very well and not playing accordingly.
When teams need cap space, they often look to cut loose an underperforming veteran with a big salary. It’s either that or they must cut multiple players making less to gain the same space.
Maclin didn’t play well last season, and with some of the young talent on the roster, the team didn’t think he was worth what they were paying him anymore. So, they cut him loose and gained $10 million in space under the salary cap.
Okay, so they needed space and cut a guy who wasn’t worth his paycheck anymore to get it. How is that going to cost the Chiefs the season?
By cutting Maclin, the Chiefs have made it much easier for defenses to key on their playmakers. It will be vaguely reminiscent of the 2014 season; the one where the Chiefs failed to complete a single touchdown pass to a wide receiver the entire season.
Yes, Maclin underperformed last season, but he did have issues with his groin. It was enough to knock him out for a few games late in the season, but who knows how long the injury lingered before it became too much to ignore.
He had 87 receptions for 1088 yards and eight touchdowns the year before, so we know he can play when he’s 100 percent.
Without him, the Chiefs no longer have a veteran wide receiver. No one has proven themselves enough for defenses to be concerned about them. Yes, Tyreke Hill had a tremendous rookie season, but now that teams have seen his game can he do it again? We will not know for certain until the season gets rolling.
So—with a bunch of unproven, young talent at wide receiver, defenses are going to key on stopping Travis Kelce and the running game until the Chiefs give them a reason to do otherwise.
Can they? Can the Chiefs give them that reason? Probably not right away.
The team’s young talent is going to need time to grow and mature into players that opposing defenses must respect. So, unless they are able to hit the ground running, the Chiefs will likely struggle on offense at the start of the season.
Teams may not be able to take away Kelce or the running game, but they will make both less effective. For a team that had seven games decided by a touchdown (and two-point conversion) or less, they can’t afford to be less effective—because that will mean losing games.