Samuel, 24, spent the first four years of his career with the Carolina Panthers, where he was coached by Rivera for three years and drafted in the second round. The 5-foot-11 receiver is his speed and versatility, being able to play on the outside and in the slot.
“Oh it’s lit!!” McLaurin tweeted after the deal was reported, including a fire emoji.
Samuel’s addition should boost Washington’s offense, which ranked dead last in 2020 and has undergone some major changes this offseason. The team released starting quarterback Alex Smith and replaced him with journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick on a one-year, $10 million deal.
Washington’s passing offense averaged just 216.5 yards per game. McLaurin led all receivers with 1,118 yards — almost doubling the next most productive player, tight end Logan Thomas (670 yards). Washington lacked a true No. 2 receiver, rotating between Cam Sims (477 yards), Dontrelle Inman (163) and Steven Sims (265).
Samuel is coming off a productive season in which he posted career highs in receptions (77) and yards (851). According to the NFL Network, Washington tried to make a trade for Samuel last year but then-Panthers general manager Marty Hurney refused the offer. Hurney now works for Washington in a senior executive role after Carolina fired him last December.
According to Pro Football Focus, Samuel lined up mostly in the slot last year — doing so on 399 of his 660 snaps. Under Rivera in 2019, Samuel lined up on the outside for 66% of his snaps (640 of 958) and in the slot 31% of the time (303). Samuel caught a career-high six touchdowns in 2019, the season in which Rivera was fired from Carolina.
Washington offensive coordinator Scott Turner also coached Samuel in Carolina over the last four games in 2019, taking the reins from his father, Norv.
Samuel’s possible signing in Washington was rumored for weeks given the logical ties, but the market for wide receivers was slow to develop. Some, like veteran A.J. Green, resorted to taking one-year “prove-it” deals rather.
“He’s got a high ceiling,” Rivera said. “He’s got tremendous football skill. He’s got great football knowledge. He understands the game. He’s competitive and he wants to succeed. You watch his work ethic – it’s impressive.
“You see him going before practice to catch balls. You see him catching balls after practice. He’s got coaches that stay after and throw the ball to him. It reminds me a little bit of what Josh Norman learned to do during his career and I thought that was really impressive.”
“We really talked about this in the dorms freshman year,” McLaurin tweeted.
• Matthew Paras can be reached at email@example.com.
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