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Maclin's solid character will cost him money
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He could have held out. And who would have blamed him?

Jeremy Maclin is a consistent, productive, young wide receiver, and consistent productive young wide receivers who are unrestricted free agents make a lot of money.

A lot of money.

He’s never quite been appreciated here the way he should be, but Maclin has been a model of consistency since the Eagles drafted him in the first round in 2009.

He’s one of only 12 players in NFL history to catch at least 50 passes for at least 750 yards in each of his first four seasons, and his 258 catches for 3,453 yards are fifth-most in NFL history by a player before his 25th birthday.

So the contract would have happened this spring. Either here or somewhere else.

Brandon Marshall got $11.195 million per year. Vincent Jackson got $11.1 million per year. De Sean Jackson got $9.7 million per year, and Andre Johnson’s deal averaged $9.2 million per year.

And Maclin’s deal would have been right there. Maybe $9 million a year for four years.

So $36 million or so.

But that’s not what was most important to Maclin, and that’s why he didn’t make a big deal about his contract in the media. That’s why he didn’t try to hold up the Eagles and threaten to boycott camp if he didn’t get a new deal. That’s why he didn’t show up Friday and quickly come up with some fake sore hamstring so he could watch the rest of his teammates practice while he rode the stationary bike on a side field.

Maclin reported with all the veterans on Thursday and was out there Friday for practice, and then all of it –- the expectations, the possibilities, the money -- evaporated when he suffered a torn ACL in his right knee at practice on Saturday (see story).

He reported for one reason. Maclin is all about winning. He’s all about the team. Always has been. And playing a position dominated by divas, spoiled brats and flat-out idiots, he’s a class act whose charity work both here and in his native Missouri is unparalleled.

He holds youth football camps and donates gear and equipment to the youth programs in West Deptford, N.J. and Kirkwood, Mo. This past year, he hosted a Mother’s Day event to honor boys who were raised by single mothers and have excelled in the classroom and in doing community service. His Jeremy Maclin Foundation provides financial support and mentoring to struggling families.

Back at OTAs, I talked to Maclin about the upcoming season. He couldn’t wait to get out there and see how he fit in with Chip Kelly’s offense.

I asked him if it bothers him that despite averaging 863 yards per year since he entered the NFL, he hasn’t had a 1,000-yard season.

He was shaking his head before I even finished the question.

“And as long as we’re winning, the stats are going to come,” he said. “As long as we’re winning, man, I’m going to continue to just be available and if that means I’ve got 1,200 yards, that’s 1,200 yards. If that means I have another 900-yard season, then that’s what it is. I’m not going worry about all that.”

This is the ultimate team guy, and that’s why it’s so devastating to this franchise. And that’s why his teammates, who’ve all seen guys come and go, who’ve all seen careers end prematurely, who’ve all seen every manner of injury at every level of the game, were so shaken Saturday afternoon.

“You hate it more for the individual than you do for its impact on the team,” Evan Mathis said. “Especially somebody like Mac.”

Nobody deserves to go through this. A full year without football. Months of grueling rehab. By the time opening day 2014 comes around, Maclin will have gone 20 months without playing in a regular-season game.

You have to feel for Maclin, who on Saturday became a victim of his own selflessness. Had he put himself first, maybe he doesn’t show up for work. Had he put himself first, maybe he wouldn’t have been out there to get hurt.

Now, instead of being in line for a four-year deal worth more than $30 million, he’s going to be an unrestricted free agent coming off a serious knee injury. And even if he comes back at 100 percent, he’ll never make up the money he lost on Saturday afternoon at the NovaCare Complex.

I thought Maclin was going to have a big year in 2013 under Kelly. I told him back at OTAs I thought he’d have over 1,200 yards in this offense.

He just laughed.

“That’d be nice,” he said. “But I just want to win, man. I just want to win and go back to the playoffs.”