Baltimore Ravens' newest wide receiver Jeremy Maclin talks on why he chose the Ravens and working with quarterback Joe Flacco. (Kevin Richardson / Baltimore Sun video)
Before Jeremy Maclin departed the Under Armour Performance Center and his free-agent visit with the Ravens last Thursday, the wide receiver told team officials he'd take the weekend to think about where he'd play in 2017 and beyond. Maclin, though, spent last Saturday at a friend's wedding, not thinking much about it at all.
By then, and again the following day when he had in-depth conversations with friends and family members, his decision had become pretty clear.
"It was something about Baltimore from the start that caught me and kept it in the forefront of my mind," Maclin said after Wednesday's minicamp practice, his first with his new team. "Baltimore made the most sense from a football standpoint, a comfort standpoint and a personal standpoint. It is an organization that I've always had respect for from afar. I told coach [John Harbaugh] this: 'All the stories I heard about him when I got to Philly after he left, it was nothing but positive vibes.' When I got a chance to come here and meet all the guys and meet all the coaches, it just felt right."
It certainly helped that Maclin hit it off with wide receivers coach Bobby Engram at dinner the night before the official start of his visit. He enjoyed meeting some Ravens at safety Tony Jefferson's house, where many players had gathered to watch Game 3 of the NBA finals, and liked seeing the camaraderie the guys shared. He had met quarterback Joe Flacco before and was impressed by his "cool, laid-back" demeanor.
The Ravens made him feel wanted, both with their recruiting pitch and the two-year, $11 million deal they offered. And Maclin's wife of three weeks, Adia Kuzma, had a definite preference. She grew up and went to elementary school in Baltimore before she moved to Philadelphia.
"Everything my wife said was always about Baltimore," said Maclin, who is believed to have chosen the Ravens over his former team, the Eagles, and the Buffalo Bills. "That was probably a good sign as well. Happy wife, happy life."
Happy Ravens, as well. General manager Ozzie Newsome and company had spent a significant chunk of the offseason trying to find a complementary receiver. It was hardly surprising that when Maclin was released by the Kansas City Chiefs on June 2, a move that left the receiver hurt and shocked, the Ravens moved quickly.
They believe that Maclin, 29, will be a great fit on an offense that had little receiving depth behind Mike Wallace and Breshad Perriman. Maclin figures to spend a significant amount of snaps in the slot, where he has had success, leaving speedsters Wallace and Perriman on the outside.
Maclin had 44 catches for 536 yards and two touchdowns while battling a groin injury over 12 games last season. But in the previous five seasons, he averaged 75 catches for 1,017 yards and scored 40 total touchdowns.
"First of all, he's gifted. He's talented. He's smart. He's natural. He's smooth. He has outstanding hands. He's tough, so he's got a lot of great, great qualities," said Ravens offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg, who coached Maclin for four seasons in Philadelphia. "The one that popped into my mind first was consistency. He plays at a high level on a consistent basis. He plays like a Raven. That's the way we want to play. He's a physical dude, too."
"I was totally confident, like I told you when I first got here in the spring, about our [receivers] then," Wallace said. "Anytime you can add a guy like this, I say even better. I think we're going to have a great receiving corps. You add a guy who has had some 1,000-yard seasons, Pro Bowl, you can't ask for much more than that."
Maclin's first practice with the Ravens on Wednesday was relatively uneventful. He caught a long pass down the right sideline from Flacco during individual drills. Wearing No. 18 and working mostly with the second team, Maclin didn't catch a pass in the 7-on-7 or 11-on-11 portion of practice despite Flacco targeting him on several occasions.
When he wasn't in the play, he was standing off to the side and consulting with Engram or one of the Ravens' other receivers. Later in the practice, he was locked in a conversation with Mornhinweg for nearly a half hour.
"There are definitely some different things that are in the playbook now — different terminology, different terms, stuff like that. But the base of [the offense] is still kind of the same," Maclin said. "I've been in this style of offense — this is my ninth year, for seven of them — so the learning process definitely slows down a little bit."
A first-round draft pick by the Eagles in 2009, Maclin wasn't interested in talking about his past. He didn't address a question about the Eagles' interest in him in free agency. He also didn't say too much about getting released by the Chiefs, but it was obvious that the way the situation went down didn't sit well with him.
The Chiefs cut Maclin in the middle of organized team activities to save $10 million in salary cap space.
"You just never want to be in a situation like that again," Maclin said. "Don't leave any room for doubt, any room for error. Just go out there and play football. It was some things last year that happened that were out of my control. That's kind of how things go. They kind of took them and ran with it. It is what it is.
"It's always disappointing anytime you don't go out there and play up to the level that you're capable of playing to. I was banged up a little bit last year. It took me a while to kind of get back. It was just one of those years, man. It definitely puts you on notice that anything can happen in this league. It's a learning experience, but at the same time, everything happens for a reason."
It's only been a couple of days, but Maclin said he believes he's in the right place.
"They were also able to let me know what was going on here and the fact that they want to get back to something special," he said. "They believe that they have that. They believe I can be a big part of it."