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Daron Payne Gets Slapped With The Franchise Tag

By Mark Solway | February 28th, 2023

The Washington Commanders became the first team in the National Football League to use the franchise tag this offseason. They placed the nonexclusive franchise tag on Daron Payne, which will hopefully keep him around for at least the 2023 season. The tag is worth a few Big Macs short of $19 million ($18.937), and will become fully guaranteed when he signs it.

The move comes just the day after the Commanders cleared almost $30 million from the cap books by releasing quarterback Carson Wentz and defensive back Bobby McCain. The team is projected to have approximately $35 million available, less the value of Payne’s tag.

What’s Next?

Washington will try to ink Payne to a longer term deal, which could lessen the cap impact. They have until July 15th to do so. Payne can negotiate with other teams, but the Commanders will have the right to match the offer. If he does sign with another team, Washington would receive two first-round draft picks as compensation.

Washington also have the option to trade the 25-year old defensive tackle, if a long term deal can’t be negotiated and they don’t want to pay him the $19 million.

All of this could have been avoided if the Commanders had used Payne’s fifth-year option last year. Instead they decided to roll the dice, and crapped out. Payne had his best season as a pro and forced the team’s hand to sign an even bigger deal.

If things stand the way they are now, Payne will better Jonathan Allen’s $18 million-per-year average, as the team’s top earner.

Payne Franchise Tagged

Franchise Tag Failures

Things don’t always work out with the Franchise Tag – especially for Washington.

Kirk Cousins played on consecutive tags in 2016 and 2017 and was paid an exorbitant (at the time) $44 million for average play. He also moved on to the  Minnesota Vikings when the franchise tag became impossible to levy again.

They did it again with Brandon Scherff and earned similar results. He was the highest paid guard in the league in 2020 and 2021, as a result of subsequent tags. Once again, the player left via free agency (Jacksonville) at the end of the two tags.

D-Line Dollars

Payne and Allen are two of the NFL’s best defensive tackles. Some-to-many would say that they are the league’s best duo. They will now earn somewhere in the neighborhood of $37 million per year for their services.

The Commanders say they aren’t going to be exercising the option on Chase Young’s contract. That cost them a pretty penny with Payne, will it with Young?

The salary cap increases every year, and the Commanders may just have to rely on that fact, to keep these young guns under contract.

Something the team could have and should have predicted, when they used four first round draft picks on defensive linemen.

Lessons Learned?

Perhaps the franchise tag lesson to be learned, isn’t so obvious.

The reality is that big talent costs big money. There are no short cuts in the NFL.

Tags protect you from losing a player, but they also handicap the team in some ways.

There are ways to structure contracts creatively, and lessen the cap hits of these big contracts. But only if they are multiple year contracts and not all of the money is guaranteed. Tagged players earn guaranteed money. That can ultimately prove detrimental to the teams’s overall cap health.

The reality is that Daron Payne has proven himself to be among the league’s very best interior defensive linemen.

And so, you have to pay the Piper.

Bite the bullet. Make the commitment.

Get a long term deal worked out.


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