Washington would benefit from extending McLaurin sooner than later

Terry McLaurin

Since the 2021 regular season concluded, Washington's NFL franchise has made plenty of off-the-field headlines from the 18-month rebranding as the Commanders to a Congressional inquiry into its past workplace culture under owner Dan Snyder.

Now, as the new league year quickly approaches, Washington has multiple big on-field decisions to make. Upgrading at quarterback is a must. Whether to retain All-Pro guard Brandon Scherff is another. The list goes on and on.

But one of the biggest things Ron Rivera, Martin Mayhew and the rest of Washington's front office must prioritize is agreeing to an extension with star wide receiver Terry McLaurin. 

McLaurin, 26, is entering the final year of his rookie contract. Since he was a third-round pick in 2019, the team does not have the ability to add a fifth-year option to his current deal. The two sides must agree to a new contract before his rookie deal ends, or Washington risks losing its best wide receiver in years for nothing in free agency next March.

It's no secret that both sides want to come to terms with a new deal. When McLaurin was asked about it directly following Washington's regular season finale, he said "I've learned to live in the moment, live in the now. ... Whatever happens in the future, I'm looking forward to it."

Then, just two days later, Rivera went on the record to address McLaurin's contract situation and asked fans for patience as the two sides work together.


“I love Terry and we’re gonna do everything we can so everybody please relax, let us do our job, trust us, OK?” Rivera asked. “Believe me, this is a heck of a football player: two years, back-to-back, 1,000 yards."

While ultimately agreeing to a new contract is the No. 1 priority for both sides, the timing of the extension matters, too. Washington would be wise to try and agree to a new deal with No. 17 as quickly as possible, because a number of moves around the league could drive up McLaurin's asking price even more.

McLaurin is one of several standout wide receivers from the 2019 draft class, a list that includes Deebo Samuel, Diontae Johnson, DK Metcalf, A.J. Brown and even Hunter Renfrow. In addition to McLaurin, all five of those pass-catchers are prime extension candidates this offseason.

Another interesting tidbit about that list above is that none of those stud receivers were first-round picks, either. The fifth-year option is not in play for any of those wideouts, meaning all six of them are entering the final year of their respective contracts. Time is crunching.

There's no denying that McLaurin has been a standout receiver for Washington ever since entering the league. But so have many of his draft class peers.

Samuel had one of the most impressive single-seasons ever for the 49ers in 2021, finishing with nearly 1,800 scrimmage yards and 14 touchdowns while creating an entirely new position. Johnson finished with 107 catches for 1,161 yards and eight TDs for the Steelers this season, marks McLaurin has never hit in a single season. Brown, Metcalf and Renfrow have each made at least one Pro Bowl, something McLaurin has yet to accomplish, either.

None of these things above make McLaurin any less deserving of an extension, though.

Of all the receivers listed above, McLaurin has by far had to deal with the worst quarterback play. In fact, he's caught a pass from six different quarterbacks over his first three seasons. Yet, he still managed to turn in back-to-back 1,000-yard campaigns. He also led the NFL in contested catches in 2021, a remarkable feat considering 50-50 balls were considered a weakness of his by draft experts when he left Ohio State.

According to Pro Football Focus, only five wide receivers since 2006 have recorded a higher WAR (Wins Above Replacement) over their first three seasons than McLaurin: Michael Thomas, Odell Beckham Jr., Mike Evans, DeAndre Hopkins and A.J. Green. That's elite company.

Additionally, PFF estimates McLaurin's extension will be four years, $75 million -- slightly less than its projections for Metcalf (four years, $84 million), Brown (four years, $80 million) and Samuel (four years, $79 million). But, if all three of those players were to agree to deals before McLaurin, the price for Washington to retain its top wideout will only increase. Why would he settle for less?

Last offseason, Kenny Golladay signed a four-year, $72 million deal ($18M/year) with the Giants. The year before that, Amari Cooper signed a five-year, $100 million ($20M/year) to remain in Dallas. McLaurin is undoubtedly worth more than Golladay and probably a little bit less -- or about the same -- as Cooper. Those two figures should be good starting points as both sides try to iron out a deal.


If McLaurin were to hit the open market next offseason, he'd likely exceed both Golladay and Cooper's respective salaries. Any wide receiver-needy team with cap space -- especially one with a good quarterback -- would be more than willing to open its checkbook for McLaurin, who's a stud on the field and by all accounts an even better of a person off of it.

So for Washington, the time is ticking. An extension for McLaurin is necessary. The sooner it happens, the better. Because if McLaurin begins the 2022 season still on his rookie contract, Commanders fans will have to begin to think about life without Terry following the season.