Deebo Samuel, AJ Brown and Terry McLaurin want and deserve new contracts


(From left) Deebo Samuel, AJ Brown, Terry McLaurin

(From left) Deebo Samuel, AJ Brown, Terry McLaurin
illustration: Getty Images

It’s mid-April, which means the NFL Draft is still a few weeks away, OTAs are around the corner, and Week 1 is just five months away. Outside of the draft, most teams made their big offseason moves. Several record-breaking deals have been signed since that off-season and some young stars have certainly taken notice. ESPN’s Adam Schefter is reporting Deebo Samuel, AJ Brown and Terry McLaurin will not be participating in any field work in the coming months without new contracts.

All three players were drafted outside the first round and are in the last year of their rookie contracts. Plus, these are three of the best young wide receivers in the NFL, and they’ve seen the money for it Tyreek Hill and Davante Adams got paid. I’m going to make the ridiculously obvious argument as to why Samuel, Brown and McLaurin significantly outperformed their rookie contracts that didn’t make the first round — or first-round contracts if they had been selected earlier — and at the start of theirs fourth season earn some financial security.

Debbo Samuel

I don’t know what the San Francisco 49ers are thinking here. Samuel could be the one best player throughout the NFL. I include quarterbacks, Aaron Donald, everyone. He caught 77 passes and ran the ball 59 times last season. This isn’t a fun crease on the 49ers’ offense like William “The Refrigerator” Perry, who played fullback for the Chicago Bears in 1985. Not only is Samuel the 49ers’ top wide receiver, he’s second on the team in rushing yards and their leader in quick touchdowns. He finds time to ground an average of 6.2 yards per carry and grab eight touchdowns while averaging 18.2 yards per reception and catching 1,405 reception yards.

How is that possible? For one thing, the man’s name is Deebo. No one, especially a professional soccer player, calls another human being Deebo — regardless of what their parents put on their birth certificate — unless they deserve it. This 6-foot, 215-pound bowling ball with a V8 engine led the entire NFL in yards after contact. That’s right, it wasn’t Derrick Henry, it wasn’t Jonathan Taylor, it was Deebo Samuel, the guy whose longest reception was 83 yards. He’s the ultimate weapon, and there’s no way the San Francisco 49ers can continue that late-season run and win the Week 18 game against the Los Angeles Rams without him. Of all the non-quarterbacks who should be shown the decency not to fight for an early contract extension, Samuel should be first.

AJ Brown

When the Tennessee Titans are healthy, they have a roster that’s as good as any in football. While the king of this list is Derrick Henry, without Brown he would be up against 11-man boxing. Since the Titans selected Brown from Ole Miss in 2019, they haven’t missed the playoffs, and it was his five catches for 142 yards and a touchdown that kept the Titans in that division round playoff game they lost to the Cincinnati Bengals.

Brown has rushed for 1,000 yards in two of his first three seasons. That it wasn’t a third is only because he missed four games in 2021 through injury. He was still averaging 13.8 yards per reception. Despite all the time Henry missed this season, the Titans were still able to secure the best record in the AFC. A lot of this has to do with Brown. He missed three straight games towards the end of the season, but when he returned in Week 15, the Titans won their last three games. That offense can no longer depend on Derrick Henry carrying the ball more than 300 times a season. It needs to be diversified and right now the Titans have no better options than one of the best wide receivers in the NFL.

Terry McLaurin

The Washington Commanders are certainly one cesspool of a franchise, but her one consistent bright spot was McLaurin. Not only was the front office a mess, but since Kirk Cousins, who was habitually tagged with the franchise label, there hasn’t been a unified face in Washington. However, none of these issues bothered McLaurin on the field. Without anything close to a Pro Bowl quarterback, the top left tackle in the NFL, refusing to play for Washington and McLaurin being the only player circling in opposing teams’ scouting reports, he always produces still.

Last season, McLaurin caught 77 passes for 1,053 yards and five touchdowns while averaging 13.7 yards per catch. For his career, he has averaged 13.9 yards per catch and has never dropped below 12.9 in a season. He’s a real big-play threat on a team that has no others on offense. The team’s second- and third-best receptions are running backs JD McKissic and Antonio Gibson. There’s no reason to watch Washington play other than to hope for a big game from McLaurin, especially last season with injuries to pass rushers Montez Sweat and Chase Young. Last but not least, signing McLaurin would bring positive PR to a franchise that hasn’t had one of late, aside from a standing ovation for Alex Smith after he returned from a devastating leg injury, and there’s no Hollywood ending to this other than that he it simply takes the field.

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