When wide receiver Jeremy Maclin became available on June 2, the Ravens were ready to pounce.
Under General Manager Ozzie Newsome and Assistant General Manager Eric DeCosta, the team has a system that studies projected salary cap roster changes likely to happen.
"Our study of Jeremy was completed. We didn't have to do any quick studies," DeCosta said last week.
That allowed Newsome to reach out to Maclin immediately: "We're interested in you."
The Ravens were not alone. Pro Bowl receivers under 30 rarely become available in June. Along with Baltimore, Maclin instantly heard from other teams, and his former Eagles teammate, running back LeSean McCoy, asked Jeremy if his first visit would be to Buffalo. (McCoy did this privately to Jeremy and publicly with former Ravens quarterback Tyrod Taylor, who is now the Bills' starter.)
That same day, new Ravens safety Tony Jefferson tweeted to Maclin.
(Maclin: "Tony was the first from the Ravens to reach out directly to me, but I know they were talking with my agent. When I got to Buffalo on Tuesday [June 6], I got a text from Eric Weddle. He told me that the culture here is good and that they were building something great. He told me about Harbs and the talent here. His text definitely played a part in my decision.**
"Then Joe [Flacco] texted me when I was still in Buffalo. He basically said that this is a good place and that we were going to win. I had met Joe before, and he is a cool dude – straightforward. He said what we could do together to win.")
The good news for the Ravens is that Maclin, after an overnight stay, left Buffalo without signing with the Bills. That afternoon (June 7), he got on a plane to Baltimore. John Harbaugh, who can recruit with the best of them, and Newsome, had made pitches to Maclin. (Harbs said: "Ozzie deserves a lot of credit here.") And, Harbs and Oz would get their opportunity to spend time with Maclin the following morning (Thursday, June 8).
The GM and head coach called on Ravens Wide Receivers Coach Bobby Engram, a former NFL standout (650 catches for 7,751 yards for three teams in a 14-year career), to meet Maclin at the airport and take him to dinner. "I took Jeremy to the hotel downtown and let him get settled, and then we met at Sullivan's for dinner. I also invited Thomas [Hammock, Ravens running backs coach] to come along. He's a top recruiter – did that at Wisconsin – and he was great that night," Engram said.
"To be honest, I really enjoyed the conversation with Jeremy. He's very sharp. He seemed to understand our culture already – our approach to winning. He had very specific questions about what we do on and off the field. By the time we finished, I felt great about him, and I thought he felt very good about us."
(Maclin: "Spending time with Bobby was important. I got the sense of what type of relationship we would have, and I felt good about that. He portrayed a group that was selfless, that had each other's backs. It was genuine, and I had already gotten that message from the texts.")
PARTY AT JEFFERSON'S
That was just the start of the evening for Maclin and the Ravens.
Jefferson was hosting a group of teammates to watch Game 3 of the NBA finals between the Cavs and Warriors. "Tony invited me to come by and meet some of the guys," Maclin said.
"It was a good-sized group and a good cross section of our team," Engram said. "I think this was a very important part of Jeremy's decision. He saw who we were, from a longtime Raven like 'Sizz' [Terrell Suggs], to newer teammates like Tony and Eric [Weddle]. There were at least 15 players there, and they were into the game. I think he was impressed with the whole group."
Jefferson had invited Jeremy that morning, when Maclin was still in Buffalo. "I wanted him to be around our guys – see for himself, how we communicate and react to each other. Our team chemistry is great. And, I wanted him here. I've played against him. He's a beast. I thought he got a really good feel for us that night," Jefferson said.
(Maclin: "It was cool. There was a lot of trash talking about which team would win. You could see the kind of relationships the guys have with each other off the field. It spoke volumes.")
The next morning (June 8), Maclin came to our Under Armour Performance Center, where he received the full-court press from Harbs and Ozzie. But, by chance, there was a huge bonus for us – Steve Smith Sr. was here to do a report for his new boss, the NFL Network. Bingo!
Smith, who had been similarly recruited by the Ravens three years earlier, joined Maclin for breakfast. "You know me, I told the truth." Which was great for us – Steve loved his time with the Ravens and has the utmost respect for Harbs. ("We'll be life-long friends.") He also believes the Ravens will be a serious playoff contender this season.
"We talked about a lot of things, including football. I told him Joe was elite. Joe's a Super Bowl MVP, and I played with him," Smith told me. "I know Joe. I told Jeremy that Joe would make him better and that he would make Joe better. They would score a lot of points together. If healthy, the offense will be good, and he already knew about the Ravens' defense."
(Maclin: "My conversation and time with Steve was valuable. He kept it real for me. And, listen, if you're going to respect anyone's opinion, it's going to be Steve's. He has that reputation. He's going to tell it exactly like it is, and he did. He's blunt.")*
While we wanted to get Jeremy to commit to the Ravens that day, he wanted to speak with his wife, Adia, first.
Another bonus for the Ravens! Adia, whom Maclin married on May 20, grew up in Baltimore (Hilton Elementary School) before moving to Philadelphia when she was "nine or 10."
"We respected that he wanted some time to think things through," Harbaugh explained. "A lot had happened to him in a short time. He gets married, then he's surprised to be a free agent, and he was in a friend's wedding that weekend."
(Maclin: "That Sunday [June 11], after my friend's wedding, we had a chance to sort things out, spend some time with family and get into some in-depth conversations. There was something about Baltimore that stuck with me from the first time Ozzie and Coach Harbaugh reached out.")
The following morning, Monday (June 12), Maclin tweeted that he was coming to the Ravens. He signed the next day and practiced the last two days of our mandatory minicamp. He looked pretty good.
BONUS MACLIN/RAVENS CONNECTION
After I interviewed Coach Engram about his dinner and recruitment of Maclin, we passed Offensive Coordinator Marty Mornhinweg in the hallway. Bobby stopped Marty: "My father-in-law told me that when you're in a big meeting, there's always a 'fox' present. [The fox is] the person who gets things done – makes the sale, so to speak. Marty was that with Jeremy," Engram said.
Mornhinweg was the offensive coordinator at the Eagles when Jeremy played there. "Well, Jeremy and I talked a little bit. We know each other well. Maybe that helped," Marty said. And, here's how Mornhinweg described Maclin: "He's gifted, smart, natural and smooth. He has outstanding hands, and he's tough. He plays like we want to play."
That's what I'm talkin' about!
Talk with you soon,
P.S. Maclin married Adia last month. It was important for him to speak with her before committing to the Ravens. He told me: "Happy wife, happy life." Both Tony Jefferson and Steve Smith, Sr. used the same phrase to me when I asked them about Maclin not signing with the Ravens during his initial visit here. "You know the old saying," Smith stated with a smile, "Happy wife, happy life."
P.P.S. I asked Tony what kind of food he prepared for his NBA-watch party. "No, no, no! We ordered food. I can't cook. We would all have been sick the next day if I prepared it."