It didn't take long for Carson Wentz to grow fond of Terry McLaurin.
The two players first shared a field in 2019 -- McLaurin's rookie year in Washington and when Wentz was still quarterbacking the Philadelphia Eagles. In Week 1, McLaurin caught five passes for 125 yards and a touchdown, an impressive NFL Debut despite the Burgundy and Gold coming up short. When the two teams met again in late December, McLaurin had another game to remember: five catches, 130 yards, and a touchdown, one that came on a 75-yard slant play.
After that Week 15 game, Wentz made it a point to speak with Washington's rookie wideout.
"Terry, I remember one of his first games when I played against him, I told him after the game, 'I'd love to throw the ball to you someday,'" Wentz said Thursday. "I think he took a slant, went 80 yards and I was like, 'this kid's different.'"
Now, three years later, McLaurin and Wentz are teammates following the Commanders' trade for the quarterback, one that became official on Wednesday.
"Never did I think it would all line up like this," Wentz said.
Wentz's arrival in Washington comes at a critical juncture in McLaurin's career, too. The wideout is entering the final year of his rookie contract and is due for an extension attached with a hefty pay raise. The two sides have discussed a new deal but nothing has materialized.
One of the biggest factors that will likely play a role in McLaurin's decision to re-up with Washington is the play of Wentz. McLaurin has dealt with a quarterback carousel since arriving in Washington -- he's caught a pass from six different QBs in three years. A lack of consistent play under center has prevented McLaurin from fully breaking out, but the former Ohio State standout has still produced back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons anyway.
Washington coach Ron Rivera hopes that the addition of Wentz will not only bring stability to the Commanders' offense but also help McLaurin's long-term future.
"I think it helps him. Most certainly. It points us the [right] direction," Rivera said Thursday when asked how Wentz's arrival will impact McLaurin.
"His skill set feeds very well into what we expect to do with the offense. It really does," Rivera continued. "[Wentz] can throw the vertical ball very well, but he's also a spot-on passer, especially in the quick game. Again, those are some of Terry's skills that are just tremendous. We really think this can be a very good part of it."
Throughout McLaurin's first three years in Washington, the lack of consistent play at quarterback has also prevented offensive coordinator Scott Turner from fully utilizing the downhill passing game. The arm strength limitations of quarterback Taylor Heinicke, Washington's 2021 starter, were quite evident throughout the year. Alex Smith, Dwayne Haskins, Kyle Allen, Colt McCoy and Case Keenum all had their own restrictions, too.
With Wentz, the team expects to throw the football downfield a lot more. That should only benefit McLaurin, who is excellent at stretching the field but didn't have many opportunities to do so with Heinicke under center.
"I think one of the things it does is it allows us to throw the ball vertical even more so than we have in the past. I know it's a big part of this offense, a big style of this offense," Rivera said. "The vertical attack opens up a lot more things. It opens up some things underneath in the passing game. It opens up some of the running game knowing you're not going to be able to put eight guys in the box. ... I think it will really help us attack differently our opponents."
From McLaurin's standpoint, he's never played with a quarterback of Wentz's caliber yet in the NFL. Vice versa, too, as Wentz has yet to line up with a wide receiver as talented as McLaurin. Only once has Wentz played with a 1,000-yard receiver in his six NFL seasons, which came last year in Indianapolis with Michael Pittman. McLaurin has topped that mark in each of the past two seasons all while needing two hands to count the number of quarterbacks he caught a pass from.
Before he took the podium on Thursday, Wentz had the chance to quickly chat with Turner for the first time. The Commanders new quarterback left his brief meeting with the offensive coordinator "fired up" about the offense's potential.
"Just talking with Coach Turner, just his vision building for the offense, how he likes to call things and push the ball down the field and the playmakers around," Wentz said. "Obviously he's got a much better insight to the guys around here than I do coming in right away. And so just hearing his excitement level with it as well, I think we're both pretty fired up."
Although Wentz admitted he hasn't gotten to know many of Washington's skill players just yet, he plans to organize throwing sessions with them during the offseason rather soon. He's plenty familiar with the defense from his Philadelphia days, though, and knows the potential and capabilities Jack Del Rio's unit has moving forward.
"It's a special roster. I truly believe that and talking to everybody in this organization, they feel the same," Wentz said. "And so offensively, defensively, I think we got the right pieces in place and that and I can tell the vision is there from the top. And so that's exciting. I look forward to being a part of it."