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Report: Terry McLaurin not expected at mandatory minicamp this week

NFL: Washington Football Team at Philadelphia Eagles Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Nicki Jhabvala of the Washington Post seems to have answered the question that we asked yesterday on Hogs Haven about Terry McLaurin, reporting that he is unlikely to attend the mandatory minicamp that begins on Tuesday.

The report says that there has been some progress, but that the two sides remain “far apart”.

In an NFL contract, this may or may not have to do with the overall value or annual value of the contract. Other terms such as the number of years or amount of guaranteed money can be just as important, or even more important.

If the issue is, for example, not the contract value, but the total guarantees in the deal, this could be affected by business or cash flow considerations. The funding rules in the NFL’s Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) say that owners must pre-fund contract guarantees by putting the entire sum in escrow. This means, for example, that the Haslams, who own the Cleveland Browns, were required to bank $230m at the time the contract with Deshaun Watson was signed.

The funding rule originated 30, 40 years ago when a real issue emerged of some teams struggling to make good on contracts. These days, it’s hard to imagine a team struggling to meet payroll given the realities of the business model, but the 2020 season and its COVID-affected revenues should act as a reminder that NFL cash flows are not invulnerable.

While it’s easy for fans to think of NFL owners as having bottomless wealth, for an owner like Dan Snyder, most of his wealth is the team itself, and while it is very valuable, just a year ago, Snyder had to borrow the cash required to buy approximately 40% of the team from his minority shareholders. The crisis that arose between Snyder and his minority partners was initially triggered, according to many media reports at the time, by Snyder’s unilateral decision to withhold the annual dividend payment.

More recently, public funding offers to help pay for a new stadium in 2027 are drying up faster than mud puddles in late July.

The owner who just two years ago was canceling dividends to protect cash flow, has recently had to dramatically extend his borrowing to take 100% ownership if the team, and is now facing a looming deadline with regards to building a new stadium and faces an uphill battle to secure any public funding for that effort.

Could the net result be that Dan Snyder has to plan carefully in order to meet the funding requirements of newly signed player contracts? Recently, Cooper Kupp signed a contract that did not reset the market in terms of total value, but his 3-year, $80m deal had $75m in guaranteed money, and many people will tell you that it’s the guaranteed money that counts — not the total contract value.

Stan Kroenke, the owner of the Rams, may not have done Dan Snyder any favors. Just a couple of weeks ago, $75m in guarantees over 3 years would have seemed an unreasonable ask from McLaurin or his agent. Today, it would simply be matching the latest NFL wide receiver contract, and a leap of $15 or $20m in cash that has to be deposited to escrow on the day the contract is signed might be an impediment to a deal from the standpoint of the team’s owners, and might be part of an argument for delaying the signing of a new contract from, say, March to July.

In any event, whether the issue that hasn’t been resolved is the length of the contract, its value, the guarantees, a blend of all these factors or something else entirely, it appears, based on the Washington Post report, that McLaurin, who has already missed all of the voluntary OTAs, will now skip mandatory minicamp as part of his negotiations with the team.

This has to be concerning for fans and coaches. While the CBA is clear that OTAs are voluntary, minicamp is not, and Terry McLaurin has always talked openly about his pride in being a leader of the team, both in his formal role as a captain, and less formally, as a guy who is known for his hard work, dedication and maturity. His decision to skip minicamp seems like one that he would take only reluctantly.

For a fan base that is divided by so many issues, one thing that nearly every Commanders fan agrees on is the value of Terry McLaurin’s performance and leadership both on the field and in the locker room. There is probably no current Commanders player more widely recognized across the NFL as the ‘face of the franchise’ than McLaurin, who seems poised for a breakout season after suffering through 3 consecutive years in which he has had to catch passes from a series of passers that includes Case Keenum, Dwayne Haskins, Colt McCoy, Alex Smith, Kyle Allen, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Taylor Heinicke and Garrett Gilbert.

Carson Wentz, if he can do what no other starting quarterback in Terry’s NFL career has done — which is to stay healthy for more a handful of games — is likely to be the most talented thrower that Terry has caught passes from.

Yet, there’s the rub. Terry, so far, hasn’t caught passes from Carson Wentz, and if the Washington Post report is correct, McLaurin will be in Florida this week while Carson Wentz is in Virginia working on Scott Turner’s offense with Jahan Dotson and Curtis Samuel.

It’s possible, but not likely, that the Commanders could penalize Terry McLaurin financially for skipping voluntary minicamp. Per Jhabvala, It’s up to NFL teams if they want to fine a player for missing minicamp. Should McLaurin miss camp, the max the Commanders could fine him is $15,980 for the 1st missed day, $31,961 for the 2nd and $47,936 for the 3rd. So the max for all 3 days: $95,877.

It seems unlikely that the team would seek to fine Terry for this week. There is simply no reason to antagonize the player in any way.

The next big deadline for getting a deal done is the one that seems to have driven agreement in the recent past in Washington, and that’s the start of training camp, which is likely to be the final week of July. Assuming there are no last-minute breakthroughs with Terry’s contract this week, expect negotiations to go quiet until the days just before camp begins.

Just a year ago, defensive captain Jonathan Allen missed a week of OTAs in frustration over his contract negotiations, but ended up signing a 4-year, $72m extension the day before training camp. At this point, it wouldn’t be a surprise if Terry McLaurin ends up doing something similar.