The sudden release of Jeremy Maclin took most of the football world by surprise, including his own quarterback.
"Shocked," Smith told Blair Kerkoff of The Kansas City Star of his reaction to the Friday news dump. "Jeremy is a really good friend, an amazing teammate, so still kind of just processing that he's not going to be in there with us, a guy that's done a lot for us the last two years, a guy I've grown really close to."
In his two seasons in Kansas City, Maclin was Smith's second-most targeted receiving option outside of Travis Kelce. After signing his five-year, $55 million deal with the Chiefs in 2015, Maclin was a much-needed red-zone force, tallying eight touchdowns, one season after Kansas City saw none of its receivers record a single touchdown catch.
However, the emergence of triple-threat jitterbug Tyreek Hill and the heft of Maclin's contract going forward made the veteran wideout an expendable post-June 1 cut. In his absence, Hill will most likely pick up his targets.
But for Smith, Maclin's release, which came just a few weeks after the quarterback attended his receiver's wedding, felt like more than a football decision.
"He and I have been playing a long time, been around this a long time," Smith told the Star. "They say it is a business, but obviously for us as teammates it's not. It's very personal.
For Smith, the future is now even more unclear. Without his top wideout and with rookie gunslinger Patrick Mahomes coming for his throne, Smith needs to put together a special season with a young receiver room to stave off extinction in Kansas City, a challenge he is readily accepting.
"Obviously Jeremy was a leader and a veteran presence in that [wide receiver] room," Smith said. "With that gone a lot of the young guys will have to mature fast, learn from that example and will be able to step up."