By Adam Aniba
Washington fans received an unexpected update on Sunday, ahead of the start of fee agency with Adam Schefter breaking the news that recently franchised DT Daron Payne received an extension. The LTD was for a 4-year $90M dollar, which included $60M guaranteed.
Payne was set to play on the franchise tag, which would have counted $18.97M against the '23 cap. Although Payne's annually salary will be over $22M, he'll only count $10.01M against the cap this season.
The long term deal reportedly gives the Commanders over $20 million in cap space with the possibility of creating more with cuts/restructuring ahead. Tight End Logan Thomas is a prime cut candidate, which would lead to a $5.1M cap savings w/ $3.5M dead cap hit for '23.
Washington isn't expected to make a big splash in free agency, but one blue chip signing is certainly in the budget. Below are a few free agent possibilities at positions of need/needing upgrades.
KC LT Orlando Brown Jr.
At only age 26, Brown is still in his prime and rated as the top free agent by most around the league. He's reportedly is seeking $23M annually with $50 million guaranteed. Washington needs to make major upgrades on the offensive line and after the money that's been spent on the defensive line, it's time the other side of the ball is addressed.
Veteran starting left tackle Charles Leno carriers a $8 million '23 salary with a $4.5 million dead cap hit and better play is needed from the blind side. Making a run for Brown would be costly, but would be a tremendous upgrade over the 32 year old Leno.
Although Brown Jr. is a longshot to be signed by Washington, reuniting with Eric Bieniemy and a chance at a big pat day, could be enough to bring the former Sooner to Washington.
BUF MLB Tremaine Edmunds
The former Virginia Tech linebacker is a big reason why the Bills defense has had success over the last few seasons and is only 25. Since being drafted 16th overall in '18, Edmunds has played and started in 74 career games registering 565 combined tackles (359 solo), 32 tackles for a loss, 6.5 sacks, 18 QB hits, 5 ints. 35 passes defended and 2 forced fumbles.
Washington has lacked a true difference maker at MIKE linebacker, since the retirement of London Fletcher. Although free agent linebacker Cole Holcomb could be re-signed, he's not starting material and is better utilized as a backup WLB/MLB.
Having a middle linebacker that excels in coverage is imperative for Washington's defense to take the next step and keep pace with the Eagles, Cowboys and Giants.
At 6'5" 250 lbs, Edmunds packs a punch, but also displays the quick twitch attributes to be effective in coverage. Per Spotrac.com$11M annually is the market value for the former Hokies linebacker, but a 3-down MIKE linebacker of his caliber is difficult to find.
BAL G Ben Powers
The Ravens left guard is only 26 years old and will be in high demand. Powers is coming off his best year, in which he started every game for the Ravens for the first time in his four year career (36 career starts)
Prior to Baltimore's Week 15 win vs the Browns, Head Coach John Harbaugh had the following to say about Powers.
"He's playing incredibly consistent football. Play after play, week after week, he's been playing at a very high standard, very consistently well. You kind of know what you're going to get, and it's going to be very good football. Run, pass, whatever it might be, pulling, power blocking, it's all been very good. I'm very happy with him."
Powers will be seeking a multi-year deal that pays him in the $10 million range annually. Although the Ravens IOL could be out of Washington's initial price range, he'd be an instant upgrade and the best interior offensive lineman on the roster since Brandon Scherff.
TEN G Nate Davis
The Titans' offensive line was a disaster last season, but Titans guard Nate Davis was a bright spot. Davis posted an overall 70.6 PFF grade and a career high pass blocking grade 66.8. Davis was a solid starter before succumbing to an ankle injury late last season.
Davis will reportedly seek a deal un the range of 3-years $21M ($7M/year) long term deal with $14.25M guaranteed and is only 26 years old.
Washington has promising second year guard Chris Paul returning (1 start vs DAL in '22), but not much to speak of behind him. Right Tackle Samuel Cosmi saw snaps at left guard in '22 and could be a candidate to make the permanent switch inside, but that's a project and can't be the only plan for RG.
Although the draft is also a likely avenue to address the interior line, signing Davis gives the Commanders experience and a young player with tremendous upside.
TEN MLB David Long
Over the last two seasons, Long recorded back-to-back years with 2 interceptions and 11 pass breakups. He's also improved at rushing the passer/against the run with 3 QB hits and 7 tackles for a loss.
Although the draft will have a few options at MIKE linebacker for Washington, it's unlikely any Day 2-3 inside linebacker will be a starter in year one.
The Titans linebacker is only 26. In addition to offering tremendous upside, Long hasn't even hit his ceiling as a coverage linebacker. Next to third year LB Jamin Davis, Long could be the missing piece that puts Del Rio's defense in the conversation for one of the best in the league.
The bargain bin route could be Rivera's possible course of action during free agency. Fact is, new ownership will be taking over shortly and strides need to be made, so the seat will be hot for the 4th year Commander's head coach to produce a winner and pressure will be on to make the playoffs.
**CLICK Banner Below for OUR NFL Draft Scouting Reports**