“We’re trying to get people to understand that we’re not in the past,” Rivera said Wednesday. “If we can get guys like Terry to come here and play for us and have success, have success with Carson, now all of a sudden, people start saying: ‘Wait a minute. You can do it here.’ Absolutely. And that’s what we’re trying to do. We’re trying to create that type of atmosphere.”
While the Commanders and McLaurin have continued talks, they seem to remain far apart. Rivera reiterated Wednesday the team will not trade the 26-year old wide receiver and will re-sign him “in a matter of time.”
“How much time?” he asked. “Don’t know.”
In the past week or so, Rivera said the team and McLaurin’s agent, Buddy Baker of Exclusive Sports Group, made progress.
“[The negotiations are] never contentious, I can promise you that much,” Rivera said. “So we’re feeling pretty good and pretty confident [that], at some point, this will get done.”
During mandatory minicamp, the Commanders can fine McLaurin a maximum of $15,980 for missing the first day, $31,961 for the second and $47,936 for the third — $95,877 total — according to the NFL collective bargaining agreement.
When asked whether the team would fine McLaurin, Rivera said, “He’s subject to the rules, and we will go from there.” It is common for a team eventually to forgive such fines if a long-term agreement can be reached.
For now, McLaurin, a third-round draft pick out of Ohio State in 2019 who quickly became one of the league’s most productive wideouts, is scheduled to make $2.79 million in base salary this season. The average per year of his current deal, $961,918, ranks 189th among wide receivers, according to the website Over the Cap.
During workouts, teammates have expressed support for McLaurin’s holdout. Two of them, tight end Logan Thomas and defensive tackle Jonathan Allen, were in similar situations last year and signed sizable deals hours before the opening of training camp.
“The NFL is going to use you,” Thomas said this week. “You got to get yours. Obviously, as a team player, you want him here — even if he wasn’t to participate on the field. But I understand where he’s coming from, man. You got one chance, you got one opportunity to make a [big] contract in this league. And Terry’s a great dude, great player, great kid, great person, a person I care about a lot.
“Do your thing, Terry; you get what you deserve,” Thomas continued. “The time will come.”
Rivera pointed out McLaurin’s contributions to the team and the community, which make him popular in the locker room and among the fan base, heighten the importance of re-signing him.
“You have to be able to take care of that guy so everybody understands this is the type of player we want,” he said, adding, “We intend to do this because we believe in who Terry is for us and what he can bring to the table.”
However, Rivera said he is concerned neither by McLaurin’s absence nor by his lack of reps with Wentz. He argued “Terry’s a professional” and that he and Wentz will have plenty of time to build a rapport during training camp.
In the absence of McLaurin and Curtis Samuel (soreness), who hasn’t participated in team drills since June 1, several wide receivers have gotten more reps in offseason workouts, including Jahan Dotson, the team’s first-round draft pick, and Dyami Brown.
“It’s very beneficial,” Brown said of the extra snaps. “Sometimes you need a little bit more repetition just to critique everything and be more precise.”
Despite Rivera’s optimism for getting a deal done, he admitted there are familiar echoes between these negotiations and Allen’s last year. He said the lengthy timeline was reflective of a front-office philosophy to be deliberate with big signings.
“At the end of the day, you want to make sure and go through the process of really thinking these things out,” he said. “There’s a lot of planning that goes involved, and it’s not just planning for this coming season. … If you start spending and spending, then where’s the money going to come from? And how are you going to start planning for it? Well, by one at a time and being very thoughtful about what we’re doing.”
Hall of Fame defensive tackle Warren Sapp is helping coach the Commanders defensive line during minicamp. Sapp, a friend of assistant defensive line coach Jeff Zgonina and former teammate of General Manager Martin Mayhew, said that, while he doesn’t want to coach full time because of the long hours, he has enjoyed working with the line this week.
“No hands, slow feet, don’t eat,” Sapp yelled during drills Wednesday.
Afterward, Sapp praised the unit’s collection of talent with tackles Allen and Daron Payne inside and Chase Young and Montez Sweat on the edges.
“I love ’em. I love those two dudes [Allen and Payne],” he said. “I mean, whoa, Jesus, they’re just thick. [They’re] bowling balls and butcher knives. Now, I’m just trying to get ’em out of that two-gap [mind-set]. Let’s go forward. Let’s build a camp in the backfield three yards deep. Penetration kill all run plays. Penetration disrupt the timing of an offense — and no quarterback wants that kitchen in his living room. No way.”
“I mean, come on, man,” he continued. “You got these ends coming off with Chase and Sweat. Fellas, let’s set the stage, they’ll take him off [with a sack]. I guarantee you. So just work together as a unit. That’s all I’m trying to get ’em to understand.”