Washington Commanders defensive tackle Daron Payne became the first player to receive the franchise tag this offseason, the team announced Tuesday. If he signs the deal, Payne will earn an estimated $18.937 million, per ESPN's Adam Schefter, on a fully guaranteed one-year deal.
Per ESPN, the Commanders placed the nonexclusive tag on Payne, meaning he can speak with other teams but Washington can match any offer. If the Commanders don't match, that team would have to send Washington two first-round picks or work out a trade agreement.
It sounds as though Payne and the Commanders have already begun contract negotiations, meaning the tag gives the two sides more breathing room to come to a long-term agreement. They would have had until March 15 — the official start of free agency and the 2023 league year — to agree on a new deal. But now the Commanders have until July 17 to sign Payne.
This past season was Payne's best since being drafted No. 13 overall in 2018. He tallied a career-high 11.5 sacks, 64 combined tackles, 18 tackles for loss and 20 quarterback hits this. Payne also made his first Pro Bowl as an alternate. Payne, Jonathan Allen and Montez Sweat anchored Washington's defense line alongside talented but injured pass rusher Chase Young.
What the Commanders inevitably do with Payne could trickle down to their decision regarding Sweat and Chase in the coming seasons. Washington extended Allen in 2021 on a four-year, $72 million deal with $35.6 million guaranteed, but will have to either re-sign Sweat or let him walk next offseason. The team also has until May 1 to pick up Young's fifth-year option, which would be around $19.7 million in 2024, per Sports Illustrated's Albert Breer. That's a lot of money to be wrapped up in a defensive line.