How does defensive tackle Daron Payne’s bumper new contract extension impact the Washington Commanders and their long-term plans?
The Washington Commanders revealed some positive news on the eve of free agency when Daron Payne signed a lucrative contract extension to stick around for the foreseeable future. This ties down one of the team’s most promising young players and represents a real statement of intent from the organization to keep one of their own.
According to Adam Schefter of ESPN, Payne signed a four-year, $90 million deal with $60 million guaranteed. This puts the former first-round pick behind only Aaron Donald for the highest-paid defensive tackles, which is a huge investment for a player with one season of outstanding production under his belt.
Payne was never going to leave in free agency. That wasn’t an option for the Commanders and something that led them to place the franchise tag on his head early on.
Ron Rivera always remained confident an arrangement could be reached well ahead of time. Now that this has been sorted, those in power can focus their attention on bringing in free agents to fill positions of need.
Commanders have other big contract decisions in the near future
This extension could have big implications for others – especially on the defensive front – who are looking for big money of their own in the not-too-distant future. Specifically, the upcoming situation between the Commanders and stud defensive end Montez Sweat.
Sweat is heading into the final year of his deal and another strong campaign is set to pile additional dollars onto his demands. Again, the franchise tag helps, but with substantial cash tied up in Payne and Jonathan Allen, it brings an obvious element of doubt.
The same applies to Chase Young, to a lesser extent. After two years of injury struggles, the former No. 2 overall selection has a point to prove in 2023 and before that, the Commanders must make a decision regarding his fifth-year option.
Adopting a wait-and-see approach could be an avenue to go down. But this might cost the Commanders more in the long run and with Sweat also needing a massive sum to remain around, the margin for error is incredibly slim.
Investing so heavily on the defensive line also has the scope to jeopardize other positional groups. The salary cap is only going to go up in the coming years, but it only stretches so far and that’s why building around Sam Howell and his fifth-round rookie deal over the next two years is the best possible outcome.
Keeping Payne around was necessary considering his breakout 2022 campaign and his potential for further improvements. But this is just the start of some crucial personnel conclusions the team must make in the coming years.
Before then, new ownership could come into the fold and those in positions of power currently might not be part of the equation.
Just another fascinating dynamic for fans to monitor with extreme interest.