Kaye’s Take: Terry McLaurin’s holdout from Commanders, Browns-Panthers trade talks around Baker Mayfield, and more

This week's Kaye's Take breaks down NFL news and rumors topics such as Terry McLaurin's holdout and a potential Baker Mayfield trade.

With most NFL teams already on summer break, Pro Football Network’s Lead NFL Reporter Mike Kaye is offering his takes on three notable topics surrounding the league’s news and rumors: Terry McLaurin’s standstill with the Washington Commanders, the ongoing trade talks between the Carolina Panthers and Cleveland Browns around disgruntled QB Baker Mayfield, and a trio of veteran free agents who need new homes.

NFL news and rumors: How should the Commanders handle Terry McLaurin’s holdout?

The Commanders have had little to hang their hats on offensively over the past two years. McLaurin, an absolute steal of a third-round pick by the previous regime, has been the lone consistent bright spot on his side of the ball. With seemingly every dynamic wideout in the league receiving a revised and/or bloated contract, McLaurin, who is entering the final year of his rookie deal, understandably wants to join in the fun.

While McLaurin has somehow never made a Pro Bowl, the wideout has produced more than 1,000 yards in each of the last two seasons. Through his first three years in the league, he has caught 222 passes for 3,090 yards and 16 touchdowns.

This past Sunday, Las Vegas Raiders wideout Hunter Renfrow signed a two-year extension worth $32 million. Like McLaurin, Renfrow is entering his fourth season. The former fifth-round pick has exceeded expectations, collecting 208 passes for 2,299 yards and 15 touchdowns. Those numbers are obviously all less impressive than McLaurin’s totals, and so the Commanders WR probably wants to be paid significantly more.

McLaurin decided to skip mandatory minicamp this week, and it’s on the Commanders to decide if they wish to fine him. If McLaurin were to skip training camp practices, he’d be automatically docked huge chunks of cash. So, the Commanders could wait out McLaurin’s demands throughout the summer break or they could wise up and find a logical deal for the wideout.

Washington Football Team wide receiver Terry McLaurin (17) catches a pass for a first down against New York Giants cornerback James Bradberry (24) defends at MetLife Stadium.
Jan 9, 2022; East Rutherford, N.J., USA; Washington Football Team wide receiver Terry McLaurin (17) catches a pass for a first down against New York Giants cornerback James Bradberry (24) defends at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

The Commanders’ reluctance to pay McLaurin is counterintuitive to their “all in” messaging on new QB Carson Wentz. The Commanders traded a pair of Day 2 picks for Wentz and absorbed his entire $28.3 million salary (including a $6.8 million roster bonus) in the process. Wentz isn’t making spectacular QB money, but he is taking up a decent amount of cap space, and Washington has invested pretty heavily in him, despite his falling out with two respected franchises in back-to-back offseasons.

What message does that send to the rest of the locker room? The Commanders were willing to gamble and invest on perceived “damaged goods” but weren’t willing to pay their homegrown playmaker? While the Commanders did their best to mitigate a potential worst-case scenario with McLaurin by selecting receiver Jahan Dotson in Round 1, the reluctance to pay the incumbent WR1 doesn’t help the Commanders.

Since suffering a catastrophic knee injury in 2017, Wentz has still shown flashes of MVP-level play, but his ability to raise the talent around him has been inconsistent. Wentz has thrived when surrounded by multiple playmakers at wide receiver, and while Dotson has impressive upside (this writer thinks he could be the best wideout in the class when it’s all said and done), forcing the rookie to immediately deliver as a top target with the distraction of McLaurin’s holdout (or worse), seems like a recipe for disaster, especially as the Commanders try to shake the bad press and play of the last few years.

McLaurin deserves a contract extension and should be part of the Commanders’ long-term plans. While the current regime is likely on the hot seat after two forgettable campaigns, McLaurin is worthy of an investment no matter who’s the head coach or quarterback.

Set to make $2.79 million this season, McLaurin should view DJ Moore’s contract extension as a template for his new deal. Moore signed a three-year, $61.9 million contract extension with the Panthers in March. While Moore is two years younger and had his fifth-year option as a leverage play, McLaurin has been comparably productive to the former first-round pick.

A three-year, $60 million deal for McLaurin would make a lot of sense for both sides. For McLaurin, it would put him among the top 10 wide receivers in annual salary and keep him in Washington for the long term. For the Commanders, the extension would just be a bet on McLaurin until he’s 30. McLaurin might not have Moore’s upside, but he’s certainly replicated his consistency and actually has scored one more touchdown in one less season.

Now, McLaurin might view himself as deserving more than a Moore-like deal. If that’s the case, the Commanders should look to shop him for a second-round pick (possibly more) to a team willing to pay. This offseason has shown that teams are willing to invest a lot in the WRNposition. A team like the Chicago Bears could make sense, despite their clear strategy of starting over from scratch.

Kaye’s Take: If the Browns and Panthers finally pull off a trade for Baker Mayfield, how will it impact both squads?

According to CBS Sports insider Jonathan Jones, the Browns and Panthers have kept talks alive regarding a potential Baker Mayfield trade. As has been the case since March, the main holdup on a deal is how much of Mayfield’s $18.9 million salary will be paid by the Browns. If the Browns are expected to foot the bill for the majority of Mayfield’s guaranteed salary, they’ll likely ask for a premium pick to mitigate the impact on their salary cap.

The issue for the Browns is that they have little-to-no leverage. Mayfield playing for Cleveland again would be a disastrous scenario, even with new franchise QB Deshaun Watson likely facing a lengthy suspension due to the two-dozen civil suits he faces that stem from allegations of sexual misconduct. The Browns signed journeyman QB Jacoby Brissett as insurance for a Watson suspension, so posturing as if they could hold onto Mayfield as an emergency option is clearly a farce in trade talks.

The Panthers and Browns are in similar situations. Carolina currently has Sam Darnold at the top of their QB depth chart after they foolishly picked up his fifth-year option last offseason. Darnold predictably struggled last year, and now the Panthers — like the Browns with Mayfield — are stuck with his $18.9 million guaranteed salary.

In the 2022 NFL Draft, Carolina traded up for Ole Miss QB Matt Corral in the third round. However, rushing Corral’s development would be another mistake by this leadership group. So, acquiring Mayfield, hopefully at a discount and for a Day 3 pick, makes a ton of sense for them.

The issue here is money. The Panthers know Mayfield and Darnold can’t take up a combined $37 million of their salary cap. The Browns know it, too. So, does Cleveland buy themselves a better pick or does Carolina bite the bullet and slightly upgrade their most important position?

It’s a matter of who blinks first, and really this needs to be settled before the start of camp. If Mayfield is the Panthers’ guy, he needs to be leading the charge immediately. Also, the Browns can’t afford for Mayfield to step foot in their building and create an issue just based on presence alone.

Logically, the Browns should pay for $8.9 million of Mayfield’s deal and receive a fourth-round pick for their trouble. For Cleveland, this is the price of going all in on Watson. For Carolina, paying $10 million for an upgrade at QB is worth a fourth-rounder, even if it’s conditional and can become a third-round pick.

Mayfield is one year removed from leading the Browns to the playoffs for the first time in several years. While he’s not a prized playmaker anymore, he could be an excellent redemption story and potential franchise guy for the future.

Finding new homes for Devontae Booker, Trey Flowers, and JC Tretter

While Odell Beckham Jr.’s free agency future is still making headlines, a solid trio of veteran free agents remain on the market.

Running back Devontae Booker, pass rusher Trey Flowers, and center JC Tretter can all still offer worthwhile performances at their positions. While Booker and Flowers are probably supporting characters in a rotation at this point in their careers, Tretter could be a starting center somewhere.

All three players were cap casualties this offseason. Booker was cut by the new New York Giants regime, which was left with the worst cap situation in the league. Flowers was dropped by the Detroit Lions one year after a regime change, and Tretter was cut by the Browns as part of the massive turnover in wake of the Watson trade.

With that said, all three players should be able to find jobs ahead of training camp. There was a small flurry of free agent signings this past Monday, as teams looked to fill gaps after their OTAs concluded. So, that could mean that the trio could link up with their new homes in short order.

For Tretter, the Miami Dolphins make a lot of sense. The Dolphins have upgraded or reinforced the four other positions on the line, and Tretter — who has experience in Mike McDaniel’s Shanahan-like system from his time in Cleveland — could be plugged in right away. Speaking of Shanahan, the San Francisco 49ers would also make sense following the retirement of Alex Mack. Tretter’s experience with Kevin Stefanski should help him in San Fran if he lands there.

Flowers is an interesting rotational option at pass rusher. A team like the Arizona Cardinals, who lost Chandler Jones in free agency, could look at Flowers as an option to beef up their defensive front. The Panthers, who lost Haason Reddick in free agency, could look at Flowers’ versatility and view him as a potential replacement for the hybrid SAM linebacker role they gave to Reddick last season.

Booker’s status as a free agent might be the most surprising. Last season, he performed admirably as the Giants’ top running back for a good portion of the season. He produced 593 rushing yards and two touchdowns as part of a mediocre offense. He also caught 40 passes for 268 yards and a touchdown. Certainly, a team could use Booker’s experience and versatility in their running game.

The Philadelphia Eagles, who only have five backs entering training camp, would seem like an ideal fit for Booker, who could complement Miles Sanders, Kenny Gainwell, and Boston Scott at the position.

Mike Kaye is the Lead NFL Reporter for Pro Football Network. Follow him on Twitter: @mike_e_kaye.

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