The Washington Commanders struck gold in the third round of the 2019 NFL Draft. The failed Terrelle Pryor experiment, the swing, and miss on the Paul Richardson Jr signing, and the lack of production from first-round pick Josh Doctson, led to an extremely depleted wide receiver room.
Then entered Terry McLaurin. Drafted to be the team’s special teams ace, he exceeded those expectations and then some. Despite receiving passes from eight different quarterbacks in his three years in Washington, McLaurin has been one of the most consistent contributors on the entire roster.
He has amassed over 3,000 receiving yards in his first three years, totaling over 1,000 in his second and third years while coming up just short of the 1,000-yard barometer in his rookie year. On top of all that, he has been one of the leaders in the locker room.
Leading by example, he was awarded a captain’s patch in his second year in Washington and has been one of the faces of the rebrand to the Commanders. McLaurin is a fan favorite and one of the cornerstones of the franchise.
Entering his fourth and last year on his rookie deal, he is now eligible for an extension.
Talks are not necessarily hostile, but according to Nicki Jhabvala of the Washington Post, both sides are still far apart and McLaurin is likely to miss mandatory minicamp. Al Galdi also noted that the last two players in Washington to skip minicamp, Trent Williams and Albert Haynesworth, did not hang around much longer.
While this does not call for Commanders fans to sound the Code Red alarm, this is a somewhat significant development. Washington could still sign McLaurin to an extension before training camp and this becomes a non-factor, but it frankly should not have reached this point.
Washington needs to extend McLaurin. Terry McLaurin is one of those “you got to pay him” guys. The Commanders have to get this one done.
The importance of extending Terry McLaurin for the Commanders
Ron Rivera has preached about how much the team’s culture matters to the success of the franchise. To create a positive culture, the players must embody it. And Terry McLaurin is that player for Washington. He is humble, has never complained about the less-than-ideal QB situation, has been a productive player, and is a leader in the locker room.
If Washington were to not extend McLaurin this offseason, chances are McLaurin still plays. Having a season-long holdout is nearly impossible, financially, with the new CBA agreement signed in 2020.
But, it will cause unneeded friction and force the team to go down the franchise tag route. It will make those culture buzzwords ring hollow. If Ron Rivera and Co. do not reward the player that embodies “the culture” and is productive, then it becomes press conference jargon.
McLaurin is Washington’s “alpha” wide receiver. In a wide receiver class in 2019 that featured players like AJ Brown, DK Metcalf, Deebo Samuel, Hunter Renfrow, and Diontae Johnson, McLaurin has an argument to say he is the best of the bunch.
He is an elite route runner, with great hands and the ability to win against press coverage with his release at the line. He has ample burst and speed, which allows him to win underneath on his intermediate routes and over the top. He has also shown the ability to create for himself after the catch.
Without McLaurin, Washington is left with a rookie wide receiver in Jahan Dotson, an oft-injured Curtis Samuel, and a cluster of unproven weapons behind those guys. McLaurin is a very important, integral piece to the offense’s success in 2022.
In particular, his presence is paramount for newly acquired quarterback Carson Wentz. With contract talks lingering, his lack of presence at the team facility has made Wentz and McLaurin lose valuable to build a rapport with each other.
Washington is a team that is operating as if they are in “win-now” mode. They traded for a veteran quarterback, drafted seniors that project to play right away, and signed low-cost budget free agents that fill key roles.
Their direction so far is correct. They need to win this year. Both the football and business side of the organization needs a successful 2022 season.
So Washington slow-playing a contract negotiation with arguably their best player makes little sense. They are running the risk of frustrating one of their proven stars, while hurting their newly-acquired quarterback in the process.
The Commanders stand to gain nothing from letting the contract extension talks with McLaurin. linger. Simply put: The Commanders need to extend Terry McLaurin.
Not only is McLaurin important to the football team, but he is also important to the rebrand, the fanbase, and the credibility of the coaching staff’s entire vision. With Ron Rivera being the pseudo-GM, he has to make a statement with the McLaurin extension.
He already did that with Jonathan Allen last offseason. He needs to do it again. Terry McLaurin is due a reward for his value to the entirety of the organization. This is the negotiation process the Commanders have to get right.