Ron Rivera on keeping Daron Payne: ‘We know it’s going to be hard but we’re going to do it’
The Washington Commanders have some tough decisions to make in the offseason. Will they pursue another big-ticket quarterback? Or will they re-sign Taylor Heinicke and let him compete with rookie Sam Howell next season? Or, perhaps Washington could look into signing Jimmy Garoppolo.
Washington’s most pressing offseason concern is what to do about defensive tackle Daron Payne?
Payne, the No. 13 overall pick in the 2018 NFL draft, is slated for unrestricted free agency after the 2022 season.
Remember, the Commanders re-signed Payne’s fellow defensive tackle, Jonathan Allen, to a four-year deal in the summer of 2021. Defensive ends Montez Sweat and Chase Young will be next in line for contract extensions.
Last offseason, there were reports that the Commanders weren’t planning on offering Payne a contract extension. All Payne has done this season is have a career year. He and Allen are the only defensive tackle duo in the NFL to each have more than five sacks. Allen and Payne have 6.5 sacks apiece. In 11 games this season, Payne and Allen have combined for 25 tackles for loss [Allen 14, Payne 11.]
Payne, 25, will enter unrestricted free agency at the perfect time.
However, if it is up to head coach Ron Rivera, Payne won’t see free agency and will re-sign with Washington.
“You look at the defensive line, and you’ve got these two tackles that we want to keep together,” Rivera said on the “Washington Football Talk” podcast, per JP Finlay. “We want to do everything we can to keep them together.”
Rivera knows how difficult it can be to commit so much money to one position, but he believes the Commanders can get it done.
“We know it’s going to be hard, but we’re going to do it,” Rivera said.
Remember, Rivera has publicly stated how much he wanted to keep Allen and Terry McLaurin — and both re-signed with Washington.
Payne seems happy in Washington. Like Allen, he’s not a player who loves the spotlight, and he enjoys playing with his fellow defensive linemen.
Washington’s defensive line is finally the dominant unit many envisioned when the franchise spent four consecutive first-round picks on defensive linemen. Rivera understands the Commanders could have a dominant defense for years to come if he can keep the core pieces of his defensive line together.
The Commanders can cut quarterback Carson Wentz in the offseason with no penalty, immediately freeing up $26 million in cap space.
A new contract with Payne probably begins in the $20 million per year range, but the team can be creative and spread out the numbers over the life of the contract.
If the Commanders can’t agree to a long-term deal with Payne, there’s always the dreaded [gulp] franchise tag. Rivera would prefer not to gave to go that route.