By Adam Aniba
Heading into the offseason, Washington has numerous tasks in order to fix their roster with offensive line being at the top. Sticking in the trenches, re-signing DT Daron Payne has to be Ron Rivera's first line of business
After Rivera exercised Payne's 5th year option for '22, the former 2018 13th overall pick had his best season as a pro. The defensive tackle registered career highs in sacks (11.5), tackles for loss (18), QB hits (20), combined tackles (64) and passes defended (5).
Although Rivera and Mayhew will have the first shot at bring Payne back, testing out free agency will certainly maximize his value and the franchise tag will have to be on the table.
Washington will have upwards of $40M in available cap space with the inevitable release of QB Carson Wentz.
The current tag amount to franchise defensive tackles is $16.6M with it likely to increase to approximately $18M for the '23 season.
All-Pro defensive tackle Aaron Donald is the highest paid defensive tackle in the NFL and signed a three-year $95M contract extension with the Rams in '22 ($31.66 million average per season) according to Over The Cap.
Although Payne will not garner anything in that neighborhood, a LTD will have to put him in the top 5 at the position.
T-2. Leonard Williams Giants: $21M ($63M over 3 years)
T-2. DeForest Buckner Colts: $21M ($84M over 4 years)
4. Chris Jones Chiefs: $20M ($80M over 4 years)
5. Jonathan Allen Commanders: $18M ($72M over 4 years)
A contract in the realm of $21M annually is the likely starting point for Payne considering, Giants DT Leonard Williams hasn't even eclipsed Payne's sack total over the last two seasons (9 total sacks).
Another factor to keep in mind, will be if Payne truly wants to return to the Commanders. This negotiation process can not end the way it did with Brandon Scherff, who departed for Jacksonville and was franchise tagged two consecutive seasons by Washington.
Washington will get a late 3rd round supplemental pick for the loss of Scherff this draft, but that is simply unacceptable for Payne, who is also a former 1st rounder.
Washington will likely have to offer Payne a contract in the neighborhood similar to Williams, in the realm of $63M over 3 years with $40M guaranteed.
Signing Payne could be difficult, but if they can't get a deal done, getting 1st round and more as compensation has to be part of their contingency plan.