The San Francisco 49ers and Washington Commanders are dealing with similar situations right now in regards to superstar wide receivers Deebo Samuel and Terry McLaurin. Both Samuel and McLaurin are pandering for lucrative contract extensions as they prepare to enter the fourth and final seasons of their rookie contracts. Samuel went as far as to request a trade in order to signal his unhappiness, whereas McLaurin has decided to skip Washington’s mandatory minicamp, for now, exposing himself to potential daily fines.
Samuel and McLaurin were taken with day-two selections in the 2019 NFL Draft (Samuel in round two, McLaurin in round three), and are both being severely underpaid in 2022 in relation to their production—Samuel is set to earn a base salary of $3.986 million and McLaurin’s base salary is slightly less at $2.790 million.
As all parties involved continue to sort through their situations, would these teams entertain swapping disgruntled receivers in a trade? Sports Illustrated’s Jeremy Brener recently posed a scenario where the two players are traded for each other. It’s an exciting thought, but the 49ers would likely be the team that’s less willing to entertain such a discussion.
49ers General Manager John Lynch has remained steadfast in his refusal to trade Samuel and it’s worth noting Samuel is now present at San Francisco’s mandatory minicamp, which may indicate he’s beginning to warm up to the idea of remaining in San Francisco. Trade talks involving Samuel’s name have seemingly cooled down considerably as of late. Lynch never wavered.
“We haven’t traded him, and–I’ve used the word fool—I’d be a fool to trade him,” Lynch said. “Deebo will be a big part of the 49ers this season,” Lynch recently concluded.
San Francisco’s refusal to trade Samuel makes sense. You simply don’t trade the most unique offensive playmaker in the league, and even a metaphorical swap for McLaurin would be unlikely to change Lynch’s mind.
Samuel experienced a breakout campaign in 2021. The former South Carolina standout totaled 1,845 all-purpose yards while leading the league with an average of 18.2 yards per catch. All 32 teams are constantly searching for ways to create more explosive passing plays and Samuel reigned supreme in that category a year ago. Samuel also scored 14 regular-season touchdowns (six receiving, eight rushing) while playing a unique dual-threat role as both a receiver and ball-carrier in San Francisco’s creative offense.
Commanders Head Coach Ron Rivera has shared similar sentiments in relation to the possibility of trading McLaurin.
“We’re not trading Terry,” Rivera said. We’re trying to get this [contract extension] done. We believe in who Terry is and what he can bring to the table.”
McLaurin is a budding superstar in his own right, even if he’s yet to reach Samuel’s status. The Indianapolis, Indiana native has strung together back-to-back 1,000-plus yard receiving seasons despite playing on a below-average Washington offense that has struggled to receive consistent play from its quarterbacks throughout his three-year career. McLaurin has been forced to catch passes from the likes of Taylor Heinicke, Garrett Gilbert, and Kyle Allen in recent seasons, but has still managed to establish himself as one of the top-performing young receivers in the game. The Commanders will now be quarterbacked by the recently acquired Carson Wentz. Although the jury remains out on Wentz’s ceiling as a starting quarterback, he’s likely to yield better results than what Washington received from their signal-callers in 2020 and 2021 (it’s a low bar to clear). Wentz’s presence raises the ceiling for McLaurin in 2022.
As negotiations continue to usher forward for both Samuel and McLaurin, it’s worth monitoring the progress made by both teams. McLaurin and his representation could be targeting the four-year $100 million extension A.J. Brown received from the Philadelphia Eagles as a baseline starting point for discussions. After all, McLaurin has been healthier and more productive than Brown’s been over the previous three seasons. Samuel is likely aiming even higher than that from an annual and guaranteed money perspective, with recent record-setting extensions for Tyreek Hill and Cooper Kupp possibly within Samuel’s striking distance given his 2021 season.
A trade wouldn’t necessarily make the problem go away. Samuel and McLaurin expect to receive extensions that surpass $100 million in total value regardless of what uniform they don in 2022. Both Washington and San Francisco must reach solutions that keep their superstar receivers happy and in place as opposed to searching for creative workarounds that would still result in them opening their wallets.