The Washington Commanders signed Terry McLaurin to a three-year contract extension that’ll keep him in the nation’s capital through 2025.
While a resounding success for the team, the agreement put a bigger microscope on the future of another standout performer: Daron Payne. The 2018 first-round pick had his fifth-year option exercised last offseason and is currently set to pocket $8.529 million in the final year of his contract in 2022.
Like McLaurin, Payne is up for an extension, but McLaurin’s new $71 million contract complicates matters. As does the fact that edge rushers (the more valuable position than defensive tackle) Montez Sweat and Chase Young will be extension-eligible soon and the team already extended Jonathan Allen last offseason.
Not to mention, the Commanders drafted Phidarian Mathis — Payne’s potential long-term replacement — in the second round back in April.
Despite Payne’s murky future, Washington has reportedly “rebuffed” all trade inquiries for the 25-year-old, per The Athletic’s Ben Standig.
The Commanders reportedly aren’t fielding trade offers for Daron Payne.
According to Standig, the Commanders briefly entertained the idea of offloading Payne before the draft. It appears that window has closed, however, as Standig reports Washington has spurned teams that “might be willing to pay a significant cost in trade compensation and salary on a new deal ($17-18 million annually).”
There’s multiple ways to look at this.
On one hand, you could question the Commanders not capitalizing on the opportunity to cash in on Payne before he presumably leaves in free agency. If they have zero intention of offering the Alabama product an extension, wouldn’t it then make sense to maximize him as a trade asset before he exits?
If Payne walks as a free agent, you might be talking about Washington recouping a third-round pick in 2024. As Standig notes, however, that’s what Brandon Scherff left in his wake and Payne might not be worth as much in the eyes of the NFL given he has no Pro Bowls on his resume compared to Scherff’s five.
The franchise tag is always a possibility, and it would pay Payne a handsome $18.14 million in 2023. Of course, that would make him almost as expensive as Allen. Having two interior defenders making a combined $36 million (or thereabouts) would really hinder the team’s spending flexibility next offseason.
The Commanders could obviously change their stance on extending Payne — they could similarly start fielding trade offers again — but it appears his impact on helping the team in the immediate future is the bottom line here.
Here’s Standig’s closing thoughts on Payne.
"Payne attended most of the offseason program and is expected to show up on time for next month’s training camp with ample motivation beyond the norm. That’s potentially a win-win scenario for both sides, at least for one more season. The Commanders need Payne to help the team achieve its first winning record in Rivera’s three seasons. That is trumping all other questions about the situation."
Doesn’t sound like Payne’s going anywhere … at least not yet.