Mayhew rejects idea that NFL players want to avoid Washington

Martin Mayhew

When Russell Wilson waived his no-trade clause earlier this month so he could be sent to the Broncos shortly after the Commanders made an offer for Wilson but got turned down, it was viewed by some as an indictment of Washington. Wilson's name was also added to a list that included the likes of Matt Stafford and Amari Cooper, other veterans that Ron Rivera's club simply couldn't land.

Those failed acquisitions combined with the steady struggling and dependable drama of the 21st century have contributed to the notion that the Commanders are never a player's first choice, and oftentimes, they are essentially a player's last resort. 

During a session with reporters in Florida at the annual league meetings, general manager Martin Mayhew was asked how he felt about that idea. The mild-mannered Mayhew calmly rejected it.

"I don't know if I would agree with that," he said Monday. "We've had talks with a lot of agents about players who want to come to Washington. So I wouldn't agree with that assessment."

Mayhew's no doubt a biased party in this conversation, but there have been some recent transactions that back up his response.

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Take J.D. McKissic, for example. McKissic was very nearly a Buffalo Bill before the Commanders made a late offer to him to keep him on their roster, which he chose to accept. Instead of departing for Buffalo, lining up with one of the game's most lethal quarterbacks and competing for a Super Bowl, McKissic decided to remain with Rivera and Mayhew's team on the exact same contract the Bills were prepared to hand him. 


"I made my decision off where I wanted to be," McKissic said of the free-agency switch. "Washington is home for me and I know Buffalo has a great organization, they’re doing some great things. But I feel like we can do great things here as well and that was my whole thing."

Meanwhile, outside veterans Andrew Norwell and Efe Obada — who both overlapped with Rivera in Carolina — sounded quite pleased in their recent, respective media sessions to reunite with the coach in Washington.

"I'm excited to be back," Norwell said. "This is going to be an awesome experience."

"I felt like I should've made that decision last year," Obada explained about linking up with Rivera once more. "I didn't want to make that same mistake."

Now, attracting a third-down running back, a 30-year-old guard and a backup defensive end aren't the same as luring Wilson, but it's not like the Commanders are guys' 33rd destination in a sport with 32 squads, either.

It's fair to conclude that they do at least have some appeal (which Rivera deserves credit for), yet at the same time, assert that they have much more progress to make before stars begin flocking to the area.

"Good players, they have options," Mayhew said. "But we don't feel like there's any stigma on Washington as far as players coming to us."

That's why Terry McLaurin's upcoming situation with the team will be so intriguing to monitor. He's an in-his-prime wideout who could negotiate a long-term contract to remain with the Commanders, or he could follow Brandon Scherff's lead and pick the path with tags and, eventually, an exit for a better operation.

Jonathan Allen and Logan Thomas re-upped with Washington last offseason. Will McLaurin be next?

As for Mayhew himself, he reflected Monday on his experiences of suiting up for the then-Redskins, relaying the pride he got from his employer's unique location.

"It was really cool," he said. "It felt really special to be in the nation's capital."

That emotion — of truly wanting to be on the Commanders — is one that Mayhew, Rivera and others are currently hoping to sell to the game's current contributors. Unfortunately, until they find more success achieving that goal, skeptics will continue to deride what's happening under their watch, even if the reality isn't as dark as the reputation suggests it is.