4 biggest surprises of Commanders free agency so far in 2023

(Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports) Terry McLaurin and Eric Bieniemy
(Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports) Terry McLaurin and Eric Bieniemy /
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(Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports) Daron Payne /

Commanders’ straightforward Daron Payne deal

Fans were right to feel a sense of trepidation regarding Daron Payne‘s potential departure in free agency. But the straightforward manner in which this situation was resolved by the Washington Commanders was refreshing and encouraging in equal measure.

The Commanders made Payne work for his new deal. Not tying him up last year provided the defensive tackle with all the motivation needed for a true breakout campaign that came with 11.5 sacks and a first-ever Pro Bowl selection.

While this cast further doubt about his future, Ron Rivera is not normally associated with allowing top-level talent developed by the franchise to depart for nothing. It’s a complete shift from how business was conducted before his arrival and ensures the Commanders have a young nucleus on both sides of the football to build around long-term.

Payne was given the franchise tag almost immediately. This is something players don’t normally like, but it was swiftly followed by a four-year, $90 million deal with $60 million guaranteed to put his status beyond all doubt.

Just how easily this situation resolved itself was surprising – but in a good way. Payne will now continue his prolific partnership with Jonathan Allen as Washington’s loaded defense looks to enter the elite category in 2023.