Commanders

The sound you hear is Terry McLaurin's price climbing upward

Commanders

Terry McLaurin didn't really do anything on Monday, the first day of the NFL's legal tampering period. That isn't to say he literally did nothing — maybe he put in work at the driving range to grind on his improving golf game or carved out seven-and-a-half hours to see The Batman — but in terms of free agency itself, the Commanders wideout didn't generate any news.

And yet, he was still a massive winner considering what took place.

The Jaguars — who handed out so many contracts that they might've even signed you, the reader of this story, to a three-year deal — grabbed ex-Cardinals receiver Christian Kirk and gave him a four-year commitment that can be worth as much as $84 million but was mostly reported as a $72 million agreement with $37 million fully guaranteed.

Whether that pact is framed as one that's worth $18 million per season or the best-case, probably-just-agent-speak $21 million per season isn't all that important, at least for Washington's sake. The main takeaway is that both numbers are huge for a guy who isn't nearly as good as McLaurin, which is really good for McLaurin, who's eligible to ink an extension if he so chooses.

McLaurin has posted two consecutive 1,000-yard seasons for Ron Rivera's team despite a dearth of quarterback help, while Kirk is coming off his most productive campaign, one that featured 982 yards with Kyler Murray tossing him the ball. That's why the very reactionary folks on Twitter were actually right this time when they claimed that Kirk annihilated the wide receiver market and predicted that half of the sport would strive to hire Kirk's representative for their own negotiations.

 

Even if Kirk isn't worth the gaudy amounts that are all over the paper Jacksonville threw at him on Monday (and he almost certainly is not), it doesn't matter, because he has set a lofty bar for McLaurin's camp to work with. It's not just about McLaurin, either; other stars like AJ Brown, DK Metcalf and Deebo Samuel are extension-eligible, while Green Bay mainstay Davante Adams is aiming for a new long-term contract of his own.

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Essentially, all of those standouts are going to play off one another, and thanks to what happened with Kirk — a life-changing event that he should be proud of, by the way — they can now all ask their respective franchises for more, since they're all superior to the Jaguars' pickup (with Adams, most likely, setting the top of the pay scale). 

This puts the Commanders in a tough position. McLaurin is undoubtedly their top offensive asset and someone they'd surely love to build around. His reputation is sterling and his on-field contributions are numerous, and it feels like there's another level to his game that has yet to be accessed.

All that said, will they be willing to compensate McLaurin the way the market says they should? And will McLaurin's side, for that matter, want to talk now when it's quite possible his leverage will keep increasing?

As uncomfortable as it is to imagine, this could be the beginning of a road that ends with McLaurin exiting eventually. If Washington can't lock him up this offseason, then the organization might have to franchise tag him in 2023, and as Brandon Scherff and Kirk Cousins have shown, that can signal a free agency future.

It's worth remembering that Rivera and the front office extended Jonathan Allen and Logan Thomas just before training camp in 2021, and maybe that's when they're planning on getting serious with McLaurin, too, regardless of price. Besides, McLaurin is probably content to see what happens with the rest of his peers so he can further determine what his value is.

 

So, this thing is by no means over and McLaurin is by no means a goner.

However, if Christian Kirk can secure a deal as substantial as the one he scored on Monday, it's impossible not to wonder how much McLaurin can demand from Washington. He's currently got command of the Commanders, and what once seemed like the most no-brainer move of all time suddenly isn't so simple to pull off.