Ravens will release wide receiver Jeremy Maclin, open up $5 million in salary cap space

The signing of Jeremy Maclin by the Ravens last June after an aggressive recruiting pitch was greeted with much fanfare. The expectation was that the former Pro Bowl receiver would develop into a reliable target for quarterback Joe Flacco and become the latest veteran pass catcher to succeed in Baltimore after another team had given up on him.

However, nine months after signing Maclin to a two-year, $11 million deal, the Ravens will release the 29-year-old after a disappointing 2017 season. Maclin caught just 40 passes for 440 yards and three touchdowns, struggled to stay healthy and never appeared to be on the same page with Flacco.

The move seemed inevitable after the Ravens agreed to the frameworks of deals with free-agent wide receivers John Brown and Ryan Grant on Tuesday.

Releasing Maclin opens up $5 million of salary cap space the Ravens will need to rebuild their receiving corps. With Maclin gone and Mike Wallace and Michael Campanaro (River Hill) heading toward free agency, the only receivers officially on the Ravens roster before free agency opens Wednesday are Breshad Perriman, Chris Moore, Quincy Adeboyejo, Tim White and DeVier Posey.

Brown and Grant will now join that group.

Adeboyejo and White have yet to catch a pass in an NFL regular-season game and Posey, who was recently playing in the Canadian Football League, hasn’t had a reception in the NFL since 2014.

The Ravens, though, clearly didn’t feel Maclin was a solution in fixing their underperforming passing game. Perhaps fittingly, Maclin’s season — and his brief Ravens career – ended with the wide receiver on the sideline nursing a knee injury that prevented him from playing the final two games.

As it turned out, Maclin’s time with the Ravens bore a closer resemblance to Lee Evans’ than that of Steve Smith Sr. or Anquan Boldin. This certainly wasn’t how the Ravens envisioned it playing out.

When Maclin was surprisingly released by the Kansas City Chiefs last June, the Ravens expressed interest immediately. Even while Maclin was on a free-agent visit to the Buffalo Bills, Flacco and other Ravens players were contacting him and urging him to consider the team.

On Maclin’s free-agent visit, he had dinner with wide receivers coach Bobby Engram and running backs coach Thomas Hammock and then went over to safety Tony Jefferson’s house where a number of Ravens had gathered to watch an NBA finals game between the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers. The following day, Maclin toured the Under Armour Performance Center, met with general manager Ozzie Newsome and coach John Harbaugh and even spoke with Smith, who was on assignment at the facility for NFL Network.

A few days later, Maclin signed with the Ravens, believing they were the best fit for him at this stage of his career. He liked the idea of catching passes from a strong-armed quarterback like Flacco and he was comfortable with offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg, who he was with for a time in Philadelphia. Maclin’s wife is also from Baltimore.

For two games, it appeared the arrangement would work. Maclin caught a 48-yard touchdown pass from Flacco in the regular-season-opening victory against the Cincinnati Bengals. A week later, he caught another touchdown pass in a win over the Cleveland Browns. But those were the high points for Maclin and the Ravens.

He caught three passes or fewer in seven of 12 games and had more than 60 yards receiving just once all season. He was targeted 70 times, but he caught less than 58 percent of those passes. The normally mild-mannered Maclin’s frustration was on display when he threw his helmet and yelled in Mornhinweg’s direction during an Oct. 1 loss against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Maclin also appeared to struggle with his health, which is one of the reasons the Chiefs gave up on him. He missed two games in October because of a shoulder injury and then was sidelined for the final two games because of a knee problem. He wore a red noncontact jersey in practice for much of the season.

A veteran of nine NFL seasons, Maclin has 514 career catches for 6,835 yards and 49 touchdown passes in 114 career games. He made the Pro Bowl with the Eagles in 2014.

jeff.zrebiec@baltsun.com

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