NFL insider believes Terry McLaurin extension should ‘be at least $20 million’ per year

Why McLaurin's extension should 'be at least $20 million' per year originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

With the bulk of free agency in the rearview mirror, agreeing to an extension with standout wide receiver Terry McLaurin should now be the Commanders’ top offseason priority.

McLaurin is set to enter the final season of his four-year rookie contract. The 26-year-old has established himself as one of the best young receivers in the NFL, but he’s been significantly underpaid due to being a third-round pick still on his first contract.

So, what might an extension for McLaurin in Washington look like? NFL insider Aaron Caplan joined 106.7 The Fan’s BMitch & Finlay and shared what he believes should be the starting point for McLaurin’s agent Buddy Baker in any negotiations with the Commanders.

“It’s got to be at least $20 million [on average per season],” Caplan said. “If I’m Buddy Baker, the floor is $20 million. I wouldn’t take any less than $20 million. I’d probably want $22 [million] or $23 million.”

Just a few short weeks ago, signing McLaurin to an extension worth $22 million or $23 million per season seemed like an awfully high price tag. Before the franchise tag window closed on March 8, only four wideouts were due north of $20 million in 2022: DeAndre Hopkins, Keenan Allen, Amari Cooper and Julio Jones. 

Jones has since been released, but the wide receiver market as a whole has exploded this offseason — both in free agency and the trade market. Before free agency began, Mike Williams signed a three-year deal to remain with the Chargers worth $20 million on average per season. Shortly after, Buccaneers star Chris Godwin — who has the same agent as Williams — signed an identical deal to remain in Tampa Bay.

Then in free agency, Jacksonville shocked the entire NFL by signing former Cardinals wideout Christian Kirk — a solid pass-catcher but a player who has never had a 1,000-yard season — to a four-year deal worth an average of $18 million per year. Kirk’s deal set off the rest of the receiver market, as multiple teams began to overpay for No. 2, No. 3 and even No. 4 wideouts.

“The above market deals ruin this thing. The Christian Kirk deal, you’re talking about a backup receiver,” Caplan said. “Zay Jones, who I talked to the Raiders about, they say he’s a No. 3 or No. 4 receiver. He’s getting $8 million a year. That’s good money for a guy who should be a backup. You see Cedric Wilson, he’s getting over $7 million to be a backup. This wide receiver money, folks, is going crazy.”

The top of the wide receiver market was also reset, thanks to a pair of trades and new contracts for two of the game’s best wideouts.

Former Packers star Davante Adams was traded to Las Vegas and signed an extension worth $28 million per season. At the time, Adams’ new deal made him the highest-paid receiver in NFL history. But then just days later, ex-Chiefs standout Tyreek Hill was traded to Miami and awarded with an extension with an annual average salary of $30 million. 

McLaurin is not near the level of Adams or Hill, but the new contracts of those two wideouts only help drive up his price tag.

“He’s not Davante Adams. He’s not Tyreek Hill. It’s a great question,” Caplan said. “But it’s [still] got to be somewhere between $20 million and $22 million. That’s just the way it is.”

One player who’s had an eerily similar start to his NFL career as McLaurin is D.J. Moore. The Panthers do-it-all player — who entered the league one year before McLaurin did — was just awarded a three-year extension worth just north of $20 million per season. Moore’s new deal could be used as a good reference as McLaurin and the Commanders continue to negotiate on a new contract.

The main difference between Moore and McLaurin, though, is that the former was a first-round pick. McLaurin wasn’t. In four years, Moore has already earned $11.4 million and is set to earn a salary of $11.6 million in 2022 playing on the fifth-year option of his rookie contract before his new extension kicks in.

Since he was a third-round pick, McLaurin doesn’t have a fifth-year option on his rookie deal. As he enters Year 4, McLaurin has yet to earn a big payday — he’s earned $3.03 million total in his career thus far. That’s why for the Commanders, presenting McLaurin a deal worth more than Moore’s extension might be necessary in order for No. 17 to commit to the Burgundy and Gold long-term.

“Buddy knows what he’s doing. He’s had a bunch of veteran players,” Caplan said. “How could it be any less than $20 [million per season]? And quite frankly, one more than that.”

McLaurin is not alone in wideouts from the 2019 NFL Draft due for an extension. A.J. Brown, Deebo Samuel, DK Metcalf, Diontae Johnson and Hunter Renfrow are all in line for significant pay bumps. Ironically, none of these names listed above were first-round picks, either, so all of them are entering the final year of their respective deals.

For the Commanders, inking McLaurin to a long-term extension would be wise sooner than later. Over the past month, McLaurin’s price has only been driven up. If multiple of his fellow 2019 draft mates sign long-term deals before him, that price tag will only increase even more.

“He’s severely underpaid,” Caplan said. “What a great draft pick he’s been as a third-rounder. High-character guy. … They get what he means to the team.”

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