Pre-Free Agency Roster Grades: Washington needs to get Terry McLaurin help

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Pre-Free Agency Roster Grades: WFT needs to get McLaurin help originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

With the 2020 season in the books and free agency less than one month away, NBC Sports Washington's Ethan Cadeaux and Ryan Homler grade the Washington Football Team's position groups before the 2021 signing period begins. Next up: wide receiver.

Wide receivers signed: Terry McLaurin, Steven Sims Jr., Kelvin Harmon, Antonio Gandy-Golden, Isaiah Wright, Emanuel Hall, Jeff Badet

Wide receivers hitting free agency: Cam Sims (exclusive rights), Robert Foster (restricted)

2020 recap

Entering the 2020 season, Washington's wide receiver corps was one of the team's weakest position groups.

Besides Terry McLaurin, who nearly broke the franchise's rookie receiving yards record in 2019, the unit was full of question marks. Washington carried five wideouts on its Week 1 roster and an incredible three of them were undrafted.

Despite facing constant double-teams and being the focus of every opposing defense, McLaurin got even better in his second year. The former Ohio State Buckeye finished the 2020 season with 87 receptions for 1,118 yards and four touchdowns cementing himself as one of the best pass-catchers across the entire NFL. 

What's most impressive about McLaurin's 2020 campaign is that for the second consecutive season, the wideout was productive despite major instability at the quarterback position. McLaurin caught at least one pass from four different quarterbacks in 2020 and still topped the 1,000-yard mark, which is a testament to just how truly talented he is.

Outside of McLaurin, though, Washington received little production from the rest of the position group. There's a reason why Washington offered Amari Cooper north of $100 million last March and why the Burgundy and Gold figure to be in the free-agent market once again at the position.

Let's break down the numbers. Besides McLaurin, six other wide receivers caught at least one pass for Washington in 2020. Here are their combined stats compared to No. 17's.

McLaurin in 2020: 87 catches, 1,118 yards, 4 receiving touchdowns

All other six Washington WRs in 2020: 107 catches, 1,142 yards, 4 receiving touchdowns

Sure, it's worth noting that Washington received excellent production in the pass game from its running backs and tight ends. J.D. McKissic finished with 80 grabs while Logan Thomas led the team with six touchdowns. Antonio Gibson did a bit of everything. All three of these players are key components for what Washington is trying to build.

That being said, though, Washington needs a lot more production from the rest of its wide receivers. Opponents were not worried about anyone but McLaurin when facing Washington in 2020. The Football team's lack of talent on the outside allowed teams to double- and triple-team McLaurin and effectively take him out of the game.

McLaurin is a star and Washington fans should hope he stays for a long time. However, it's fair to say Washington's offense won't unlock its full potential until, as Richard Sherman said, McLaurin gets some help.

Trade/Free Agency Options

Luckily for Washington, it's the best time to be in need of a wide receiver. Several top talents will be available in free agency this offseason. The 2021 market is littered with talent across the board.

The 2021 wide receiver free agent class is unprecedented, not only because of the sheer amount of true No. 1 options that are available, but because of how deep the class is.

Let's start at the top. There are three stars that highlight the wide receivers that'll come available in March: Chicago's Allen Robinson, Detroit's Kenny Golladay and Tampa Bay's Chris Godwin.

While none of these player's futures are guaranteed just yet, there's a chance all three are franchise tagged. Even if all three players do end up getting tagged, that also doesn't mean they're locked in with their respective teams, either, as a tag-and-trade is possible.

But Washington might not even need one of those three wideouts to take its offense to the next level. There are several 'Tier 2' pass-catchers that will be available --including Pittsburgh's JuJu Smith-Schuster, Tennessee's Corey Davis and Houston's Will Fuller V -- that have all been excellent wide receivers in the league. Adding one of those receivers could unlock a whole other dimension in the offense.

The wide receiver position has never been deeper than it is today. Washington will have several options to improve the position this offseason, giving no excuse to arrive at training camp with the same wide receiver corps they finished the season with.

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Pre-Free Agency WR Grade

As it stands now, Washington's wide receiver room is not very talented. It's passable, which is why the group receives a C- grade ahead of free agency.

While that mark might be low, adding just one dynamic player to the bunch would certainly bump that grade up to at least a B. Depending on who Washington does ultimately sign (say it hits a home run with Robinson, Golladay or Godwin), that mark could be a lot higher.