- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Just two weeks ago, Commanders coach Ron Rivera said contract talks with Terry McLaurin were “headed in the right direction.” 

That direction, it turns out, resulted in a big pay for Washington’s wide receiver.

McLaurin agreed Tuesday to a three-year deal worth up to $71 million with the Commanders, sources with knowledge of the situation said. The contract includes a $28 million signing bonus and is guaranteed for more than $53 million.

McLaurin’s average salary of $23.3 million per year, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, makes him one of the league’s highest-paid receivers. The contract comes amid an offseason in which the wide receiver market has exploded with new deals.

The 2019 third-rounder becomes the 12th wideout to earn an average of at least $20 million annually, and the ninth to have crossed that threshold this offseason.

According to salaries posted on Over The Cap, McLaurin’s new average ranks seventh at his position — putting him behind Miami’s Tyreek Hill ($30 million), Las Vegas’ Davante Adams ($28 million), Arizona’s DeAndre Hopkins ($27.25 million), the Rams’ Cooper Kupp ($26.7 million), Philadelphia’s A.J. Brown ($25 million) and Buffalo’s Stefon Diggs ($24 million). 

After McLaurin, Carolina’s D.J. Moore ($20.6 million), the Chargers’ Keenan Allen ($20 million), and Cleveland’s Amari Cooper ($20 million) round out the top 10.

McLaurin’s contract comes after the 26-year-old skipped the team’s mandatory minicamp and held out of other offseason workouts in an attempt to gain a new deal. If the two sides had failed to strike an agreement, McLaurin would have entered the 2022 season in the last year of his rookie contract.

The agreement marks a positive development for the franchise plagued by turmoil in recent months. Recent controversies included new misconduct allegations involving owner Dan Snyder, defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio apologizing for referring to the Jan. 6 riot as a “dust-up” and the team’s talks for a new stadium falling apart. 

By keeping McLaurin, the Commanders reward a franchise pillar who quickly emerged as a fan favorite upon being selected 76th overall in 2019. Over the last three seasons, McLaurin has been among the league’s best wideouts despite catching passes from a variety of quarterbacks. The 26-year-old is coming off back-to-back years in which he surpassed 1,000 yards. In 2021, he also led all wideouts among contested catches. 

In the locker room, McLaurin gained respect among his peers and is one of the team’s captains. During McLaurin’s holdout, players like defensive lineman Jonathan Allen and tight end Logan Thomas offered nothing but support for their teammate. 

McLaurin’s rise in the NFL wasn’t a foregone conclusion. The wide receiver was a captain at Ohio State, but most league observers — including those on Washington’s staff — expected McLaurin to mostly be a contributor on special teams. But McLaurin quickly proved he was too valuable on offense, with his elite speed and tremendous hands, to be just a role player.

As the negotiations unfolded, Rivera expressed confidence that a deal would get done. He told reporters that he wanted McLaurin’s deal to send a message to the rest of the team that Washington was willing to reward its best.

“Everybody understands this is a type of player we want,” Rivera said. 

The Commanders resisted trading McLaurin to another team to avoid paying him — a strategy employed by some other franchises in similar situations in recent months. This offseason, the Green Bay Packers traded Adams to the Las Vegas Raiders, the Kansas City Chiefs sent Hill to the Miami Dolphins and the Tennessee Titans dealt Brown to the Philadelphia Eagles. 

But Rivera maintained that wasn’t an option for the Commanders. “We’re not trading Terry,” he said earlier this month. 

By getting a deal done in late June, Washington can enter training camp next month without McLaurin’s contract situation looming over practices. Instead, McLaurin can focus on establishing chemistry with new quarterback Carson Wentz and fitting into a supporting cast that features rookie wideout Jahan Dotson, veteran Curtis Samuel and third-year running back Antonio Gibson. 

Training camp begins July 27.

“Thank you,” Gibson tweeted Tuesday after news of McLaurin’s deal. “I was getting tired of that question. #BigPaid” 

Added safety Jeremy Reaves: “YEAHHHH T!!! Worth EVERY penny”

• Matthew Paras can be reached at mparas@washingtontimes.com.

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