Eisenberg: Can't Overstate the Importance of Signing Jeremy Maclin

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I don't think you can overstate the importance of the Ravens' signing of wide receiver Jeremy Maclin.

It's just what the offense needed.

With Steve Smith Sr. retired and Dennis Pitta gone, proven downfield targets suddenly were in short supply. There's an interesting collection of young receivers on the roster, but let's just say the Pittsburgh Steelers weren't going to flinch at the sight of any of them split wide.

Maclin's presence should completely change that calculus. He is a proven playmaker who has averaged 67 catches, 913 receiving yards and seven touchdowns per season since he entered the NFL in 2009.

You can be darn sure the Steelers will flinch when he splits wide. He's liable to make them pay if they don't.

The Ravens' offense suddenly becomes far more dangerous with Maclin, a receiver opponents have no choice but to respect.

What else about the signing makes sense? Yes, there's more.

Maclin just turned 29. That's still relatively young. The Ravens have a nice history of obtaining useful veteran receivers, but Derrick Mason, Anquan Boldin and Steve Smith Sr. were older than Maclin when they joined the Ravens. Maclin, it could be argued, is still in his prime.

Yes, he is coming off a career-low 44-catch performance, which prompted the Kansas City Chiefs to release him in a salary cap-related move. But a nagging groin injury limited him throughout the 2016 season, and it's cleared up now, apparently, as he has already passed the Ravens' physical.

I would argue that the Ravens are getting Maclin at the perfect time, when he's healthy again, still plenty young and motivated to prove his former employers wrong for cutting him.

Before he signed, Mike Wallace and Breshad Perriman were penciled in as the Ravens' starting receivers. That's another calculus he's going to alter. You don't sign a Jeremy Maclin to stash him below anyone on the depth chart. He's going to be a starter.

It's early, but my guess is Wallace and Maclin will start now, with Perriman still getting plenty of snaps, almost as many, as the No. 3. That's a scenario that makes sense for a couple of reasons.

For starters, it takes some pressure off Perriman, who only has one up-and-down season under his belt and is still honing the basics of his craft. He has looked terrific during Organized Team Activity practices, and if he plays himself into more of a featured role, well, great. But now he doesn't have to take on that featured role when he still might not be ready for it.

Also, pairing Maclin with Wallace gives the offense more of a varied, unpredictable look. Perriman and Wallace are cut from the same cloth as speed-first guys. Maclin, while far from slow, is more of a wily, slippery route runner, a guy who can go over the middle and turn a 10-yard catch into a big play.

He'll give defenses more to think about than just speed.

Almost as soon as Maclin signed Monday, rumors began to swirl about the Ravens possibly still being in the running for Eric Decker, another suddenly available veteran receiver, whom they would have turned to, no doubt, if Maclin had signed elsewhere.

My thoughts? If Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome can add Maclin AND Decker with the team in a tight salary cap squeeze, that's some nifty work. Suddenly, the Ravens would have a deep wellspring of proven receiving targets. It's hard to argue with that.

But I would offer this caveat: The rebuilding of the offense also includes bolstering the line, which is down two starters from 2016. It's hard to know what the organization's plans are, but it may well need to turn to a veteran lineman at some point, much like it turned to Maclin here, and I'm guessing there's only so much to be done with the cap so tight.

I guess we'll see. But in the meantime, the addition of Maclin automatically changes the look and potential of the offense … changes it all for the better.

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