Published: June 12, 2017 at 05:48 p.m.
Updated: June 12, 2017 at 07:31 p.m.

Jeremy Maclin joins Baltimore: Best Ravens receiver ever for Joe Flacco?

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On Monday, Jeremy Maclin signed a two-year deal with Baltimore, opting for the Ravens over the Bills. You'd imagine no one is happier about this development than Joe Flacco. Baltimore's franchise quarterback has a Super Bowl ring and a whole lot of cash money, but he hasn't always enjoyed the best supporting cast of wide receivers. The Ravens' need at the position only increased when Steve Smith Sr. hung 'em up in January.

Maclin, who was surprisingly released by the Chiefs earlier this month, is coming off an injury-riddled season in Kansas City. Over 12 games, he posted career lows in catches (44), yards (536) and touchdowns (2). That said, Maclin just turned 29 a month ago. And in 2014 and '15, the wideout racked up 172 catches for 2,406 yards and 18 touchdowns.

All of this begs an intriguing question: Will Maclin be the best receiver Flacco's ever played with?

Yeah, Maclin might be a prime age ... but he's yet to reach the level of Boldin, Mason or Smith
Maclin has enjoyed a respectable eight-year career, but he's a long way from matching the kind of receivers Flacco has played with in Baltimore. Anquan Boldin helped the Ravens win a Super Bowl and has 1,076 career receptions. Derrick Mason was in Baltimore when Flacco first entered the NFL, and Mason caught 943 passes during his 15-year career (including 471 with the Ravens). Let's also not forget Steve Smith Sr., who now works for NFL Media. He owns 1,031 career receptions of his own.

You can argue that all these players were older than the 29-year-old Maclin when they teamed up with Flacco. What you can't debate is whether Maclin -- who has enjoyed just two 1,000-yard seasons in his career -- is in their class at this point.
Steve Smith Sr. remains Flacco's best weapon ever
It's not Maclin; it's Steve Smith Sr. He had tenacity and passion, and he changed team culture in the locker room. He brought more than just numbers (though his numbers weren't too bad, either). Smith had eight 1,000-yard seasons and played for one-and-a-half decades. He was able to go across the middle, was an explosive route runner and could turn a hitch into an 85-yard touchdown. He was phenomenal.
Maclin could be the Ravens' WR1 in 2017, but he isn't Flacco's all-time WR1
No. Maclin might be the Ravens' new No. 1 receiver, but he's definitely not the best receiver who's ever played with Joe Flacco. No disrespect to the veteran pass catcher or his list of accomplishments to this point, but he's just not on the same level as Steve Smith Sr., Anquan Boldin or even Torrey Smith during their prime years in Baltimore. While he will certainly make a number of plays in the Ravens' version of the West Coast offense, he is not someone who'll force opposing defensive coordinators to create special game plans or defenses in order to slow him down. That doesn't mean he won't be a major factor for the Ravens' offense, but he isn't a game changer to the level of the aforementioned trio ( Steve Smith as a WR1; Boldin as a red-zone weapon/third-down specialist; Torrey Smith as a vertical playmaker).

I applaud the Ravens for making the move to acquire Maclin, but let's keep his potential impact on the team in perspective.
Steve Smith Sr. was THE MAN for Flacco when healthy
I'm not looking at just one or two good seasons -- like Maclin has enjoyed. I'm looking at an entire body of work, so I have to go with Steve Smith Sr. From the time Smith entered the league in 2001, he brought attitude, no fear and the ability to consistently make big plays. He was an exceptional route runner, always put up an aggressive fight for the ball and stepped up when needed. This is the kind of player who really impacts an offense for a long time. I don't know if Maclin will have that long-term impact.
Maclin simply not in the same neighborhood as Smith
Joe Flacco has never had an elite wide receiver. And at this point, it looks like he'll have to keep waiting, as Jeremy Maclin is a solid No. 2.; he's not a top-speed guy, or the kind of receiver who changes coverages, like DeSean Jackson. Even a late-career Steve Smith was probably more imposing than Maclin. Consider that before Smith, at age 36, tore his Achilles in Week 8 of the 2015 season, he was on pace for 98 catches and 1,436 receiving yards, higher than Maclin's career peaks in either category (87 catches in 2015, 1,318 yards in 2014).
Maclin won't even be No. 1 on the roster this year
No, I don't think Jeremy Maclin will be the best receiver Joe Flacco's ever thrown to. Forget the fact that he'd slot behind Anquan Boldin and Steve Smith in the historical hierarchy -- Maclin won't even be the best receiver on the Ravens this season.

As I wrote last week, I have great faith that youngster Breshad Perriman will finally have his breakout year. Maclin, meanwhile, is coming off the worst season of his career, and he's no longer the player he was when he first arrived in Kansas City. Once older players begin to have trouble generating big plays, they usually don't get any better. Notably, the 29-year-old Maclin produced just six receptions of 20-plus yards in 2016, and one of 40-plus yards.
Anquan Boldin was a beast in Ravens' Super Bowl run
No disrespect to Maclin, but if he's your pick for Flacco's best, you're trippin'. When the Ravens went on their Super Bowl run in 2012 -- and Flacco had an 11:0 touchdown-to-interception ratio in the playoffs -- Anquan Boldin was his top target. The receiver hauled in 22 catches for 380 yards (17.3 yards per catch) and four TDs during that postseason. The man can do it all, and he was tough as hell to cover.
A lot of people would say No. 89, but I'm going with the other Smith
I'm going to say the best pass catcher Joe Flacco's played with is Dennis Pitta, and it's too bad he's had those hip injuries, because he was a perennial Pro Bowl-type player. He had a great relationship with Flacco and was fantastic in the Ravens' offense.

If we're talking about somebody out wide, though, I'm going to say Torrey Smith. A lot of folks complained about Smith's consistency, but he was a great fit in the offense and allowed Flacco to show off that big arm.
Maclin doesn't compare to the likes of Anquan Boldin, Derrick Mason and others
Not even close. As much as I like Jeremy Maclin, Anquan Boldin was money for the Ravens team that won the Super Bowl a few years ago. He is already in the top 10 in career receptions, while being one of the most prolific postseason wide receivers in NFL history. Because of the huge numbers wideouts post in this era, many fans have already forgotten about players like Derrick Mason, who was fantastic in Baltimore. Torrey Smith wasn't bad, either.
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