The Commanders coach believes keeping McLaurin, the star wide receiver who went from third-round pick to a reliable 1,000-yard producer, is proof that the franchise means business about keeping its talent in Washington and building a contender.
“Terry is an organizational signing. It impacts not just the football side but the business side of who we are,” Rivera said Wednesday after McLaurin’s first press conference as one of the highest-paid receivers in the NFL. “It tells the people that become our partners that we want to retain young men of this stature. We want young men of this magnitude out there representing our organization, our community.”
McLaurin officially signed his three-year extension Tuesday that’s worth up to $71 million and includes a $28 million signing bonus and $53 million guaranteed. The 26-year-old wideout said Rivera and the organization made it clear from the beginning of negotiations that they wanted to get a deal done.
“It was very evident that they wanted me to be here, and I wanted to be here,” McLaurin said. “I’m just really excited for what’s to come …and to back out there with my Day 1 approach of earning my spot on this team like I was my rookie year.”
“I know how important those reps are,” said McLaurin, who added that he spent those weeks working out in Florida. “I know how important that chemistry is to be built, especially during this time, not just on the field, but just the chemistry and the camaraderie in the locker room. So that was really hard for me, but you understand the business and what has to be done.”
The decision to skip the offseason workouts wasn’t a surprise for a receiver of McLaurin’s caliber entering his fourth season. Still, the tactic nevertheless worried some Commanders fans about his future with the organization. Rivera said he understood the fans’ cries to keep McLaurin with the Commanders.
“I heard them,” Rivera said. “Loud and clear.”
Arguably most impressive about the start to McLaurin’s career — aside from the fact that he’s far exceeded any expectations as a third-rounder out of Ohio State — is that he’s done so despite having played with eight different starting quarterbacks in just three seasons.
McLaurin has totaled more than 75 catches and 1,000 yards in each of the past two seasons after 919 receiving yards and seven touchdowns his rookie year. He ranks 11th in the NFL with 2,171 receiving yards and 12th in receptions at 164 since 2020 with Dwayne Haskins, Alex Smith, Kyle Allen, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Taylor Heinicke and Garrett Gilbert as his starting quarterbacks.
Now, McLaurin gets Carson Wentz — an upgrade over most, if not all, of the aforementioned signal-callers, but a quarterback whose inconsistency has hindered his career. Rivera said keeping McLaurin became even more crucial once the team traded multiple draft picks for the former Eagles and Colts quarterback.
“It was a tremendous relief,” Rivera said about McLaurin’s deal. “When we went out and got Carson it really changed our scope of how we were going to approach things. One of the things that Terry and I talked about was how important it was to keep him in the mix.”
McLaurin’s contract makes him one of a dozen NFL wideouts to earn at least $20 million per season, several of whom received their deals this offseason. According to Over The Cap, McLaurin’s $23.3 million average annual value is seventh in the league 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 his press conference, McLaurin had a flight to California to work out with Wentz and a few other teammates. McLaurin said he’s already “connected” with Wentz on a “very personal level” since the trade.
“One thing I think that stuck out about Carson is he’s a very personable guy,” McLaurin said. “Even throughout the process, he was reaching out to me, checking in on me. That’s why I can’t wait to get out there and start throwing with him because now we get to put the football together and we get to start to form that connection on the field.”
• Jacob Calvin Meyer can be reached at email@example.com.
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