3 ways the Washington Commanders won during the 2023 offseason

Daron Payne
Daron Payne / Michael Owens/GettyImages
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Commanders locked down Daron Payne

After the Washington Commanders opted not to pick up Daron Payne's fifth-year option, it laid down the gauntlet to the athletically-gifted defensive tackle. To say he responded positively wouldn't be doing the player enough justice.

Payne was an absolute revelation alongside Jonathan Allen on the interior. There was a newfound maturity and ruthlessness to his game that became prominent throughout, with his game-wrecking ability to get into opposing backfields consistently something else that became a constant theme.

The former first-round selection out of Alabama accumulated 11.5 sacks, 18 tackles for loss, 20 quarterback hits, and 25 pressures. This was enough for Payne to make his first Pro Bowl and although there is still some development needed against the run, this was far greater than even the brightest Commanders optimist hoped heading into 2022.

Of course, this put the Commanders in a predicament with Payne out of contract. But full credit goes to Ron Rivera and others in positions of power for navigating a potentially tricky situation with supreme professionalism.

Payne got the franchise tag to prevent him from speaking to other teams in free agency. Shortly after, the lineman was given a four-year, $90 million extension that included a $28 million signing bonus and $59 million guaranteed to keep him in Washington long-term.

Rewarding your own has been the hallmark of Rivera's time with the Commanders. Payne is the latest example and given the promise of further improvements, locking him down this offseason was a big win for the franchise.