Why Terry McLaurin Will Be NFL's Next Star WR to Be Traded

Gary Davenport@@IDPSharksNFL AnalystApril 19, 2022

Washington Football Team wide receiver Terry McLaurin (17) during the fourth quarter of an NFL football game against the New York Giants, Sunday, Jan. 9, 2022, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)
Bill Kostroun/Associated Press

For most of the 2022 offseason, quarterbacks drove the news cycle. The headlines were dominated by the likes of Russell Wilson, Carson Wentz, Deshaun Watson and Matt Ryan all changing teams.

But of late, it's been the wide receiver market that has gone off the rails. First, it was the trade that sent Amari Cooper to Cleveland. Robert Woods landed in Tennessee, and DeVante Parker was shipped to New England. And then there were the blockbusters—arguably the two best wideouts in all of the NFL were sent packing when Davante Adams was traded to Las Vegas and Tyreek Hill was dealt to Miami.

That flurry of activity has opened multiple doors of possibility, with a trio of wide receivers—set to skip offseason workouts in the hopes of landing a new contract—being bandied about as potential trade candidates.

Two of those players are on playoff contenders. At least one seems on track to get an extension soon, per ESPN's Dianna Russini.

But the third is another story. At this point, the best thing for both parties might just be a parting of the ways.

And that could set up Washington's Terry McLaurin as the next star receiver to be on the move.

ESPN's Adam Schefter reported that McLaurin, Tennessee's A.J. Brown and San Francisco's Deebo Samuel, all of whom are entering the last year of their rookie contracts, won't be participating in offseason workouts until they get a new deal.

Adam Schefter @AdamSchefter

Second-round picks that include WRs Deebo Samuel, A.J. Brown and Terry McLaurin are not expected to participate in their teams’ on-field off-season programs because they want new contracts at a time this off-season when WR deals have exploded, per league sources.

It's not hard to see why these players want a raise. All three have at least one 1,000-yard receiving season under their belt. None will make even $4 million in base salary in 2022. By just about any objective measure, all three have outplayed their rookie deals by a wide margin. And given the contracts just handed out to Hill and Adams, all three could be seeking well in excess of $20 million per season in average annual compensation.

Samuel has already pulled the 21st-century move of unfollowing the team and scrubbing them from his social media accounts. But 49ers general manager John Lynch said that the team is maintaining open lines of communication with its star pass-catcher.

"We have really good lines of communications with [his] reps and will continue," Lynch said via Cam Inman of the San Jose Mercury News. [Deebo is an] excellent football player and we'll find a way to get that done. It's been budgeted for."

Brown has taken a similar route as his contemporary, recently erasing "Tennessee" from his Twitter bio.

However, head coach Mike Vrabel made it abundantly clear what he thought of the notion of sending Brown to another team this offseason.

"Not as long as I'm the head coach," Vrabel said on the Rich Eisen Show.

That echoes the sentiments of Titans general manager John Robinson.

"A.J. is a Titan, and we want to keep A.J. a Titan. And that's part of our goal this offseason, or whenever that manifests itself, to come to an agreement to keep him around," Robinson said via Jim Wyatt of the team website.

That leaves McLaurin, who posted his second straight 1,000-yard season with a 77/1,053/5 line in 2021. In January, McLaurin told Ben Standig of The Athletic that he wouldn't worry too much about the future.

Nick Wass/Associated Press

"We just have to see what the future holds," McLaurin said. "I'm proud of the way I conducted myself and looking forward to seeing what's next."

At the NFL's owner's meetings recently, Washington head coach Ron Rivera echoed a similar refrain—patience.

"I think the biggest thing is just [telling] everybody patience," Rivera said. "We've got plenty of time."

Of course, that was before the wide receiver market erupted. Before Adams landed $67.5 million in fully guaranteed money. Before Hill got even more—$72 million in guarantees. Before the trades that moved those players netted the Chiefs and Packers hauls that included first- and second-round picks.

And as the landscape has shifted so drastically, so has the viability of swinging a deal for McLaurin.

Yes, Washington could, in theory, let McLaurin play out his deal and then tag him in 2023. The Commanders could also give McLaurin the extension he seeks. It won't be as massive a deal as Adams nor Hill, but it would still be a whopper—probably in the neighborhood of $25 million annually.

But let's be real. Unlike the Titans and 49ers, the Commanders' status as a playoff contender exists mostly in Daniel Snyder's imagination. Even with McLaurin on the roster, the Commanders are the third-best team in the league's weakest division.

There are also financial considerations. McLaurin isn't the only Commanders player who will soon be looking for a massive payday. The strength of Washington's roster (the defensive line) is chock-full of former first-round picks who either already do (Jonathan Allen) or will soon (Chase Young) command big contracts.

That will create issues for a Commanders team 20th in cap space, per Spotrac.

Also, are we sure that McLaurin really wants to commit long-term to Washington? Sure, he said the right things—players usually do. Schefter even noted McLaurin still plans to report to OTAs even without taking part in on-field work. But Carson Wentz is just the latest in the carousel of caca that has been Washington's QB situation in recent years. Yet Wentz will probably be the best signal-caller that McLaurin has played with in the NFL.

That's just depressing.

The Commanders are also arguably the most dysfunctional franchise in the league and have been for years. Snyder's tenure as the owner has been marked by one scandal after another, with the latest being accusations that the Commanders may have withheld revenue from the league's other teams.

McLaurin's no dummy. He knows that his chances of winning a Super Bowl in D.C. soon are all but non-existent. And if he can't win, he's at least going to get paid—a lot. However, deal him to Green Bay or Kansas City and taking a little less money (or at least structuring the contract in a more team-friendly manner) becomes more palatable.

Brian Westerholt/Associated Press

McLaurin doesn't have the physical presence of Brown. He also didn't have the gonzo 2021 campaign Samuel did. Nonetheless, McLaurin is just 26 and had two 1,000-yard seasons in three years despite being saddled with woeful QB play. He would net a first-round pick, a second-round pick, perhaps another Day 2 pick and some filler.

The Commanders could replace McLaurin with a receiver like fellow Buckeyes Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave. Bring in another potential impact player. Use all that draft capital to push up the board or trade down and hoard more picks. Perhaps they could execute a combination of the bunch, all while gaining substantial flexibility against the salary cap.

There's a reason the Chiefs and Packers did what they did, and they are legit contenders.

Is a trade involving Terry McLaurin the most likely conclusion to this scenario? No. The most likely outcome is that McLaurin gets his money and spends the next several years making plays and piling up stats for 7-10 Commanders teams.

But it's an avenue that neither player nor team should dismiss entirely, and among the trio of Brown, McLaurin and Samuel, it's "Scary Terry" who is the most likely one headed down that road out of D.C.

After all, no one thought Hill or Adams would be traded—right up until they were.