Ben Standig of The Athletic reported on Tuesday that the Washington Commanders are not expected to extend former Alabama star Daron Payne or even pick up the 5th year option on his rookie deal.

Since being drafted 13th overall by Washington in 2018, Payne has been a dominant force at defensive tackle. He’s put up 14.5 sacks, batted nine balls, forced four fumbles, recovered three, and recorded 227 tackles in his four years in DC. On top of the stats, his abilities as a pass rusher and run stopper make it very difficult for opposing offensive lines to focus on Washington’s star defensive ends, Chase Young and fellow Alabama alumnus Jonathan Allen.

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Given his abilities on the field, it may come as a surprise that Washington is willing to move on from Payne already, but the team is looking ahead to money they’ll need to spend in the near future. Jonathan Allen just got paid, Terry McLaurin is due for an extension in a wide receiver market just went crazy this past off-season, Montez Sweat will be due for an extension in a couple years, and Chase Young will follow him soon after that.

Additionally, when the team traded for Carson Wentz, they took on all of his $28 million per year contract.

It would be wise for Washington to attempt to move Payne this off-season if it is not planning on extending him. The team has attempted to negotiate new contracts with big name free agent players multiple times in recent years and it hasn’t gone well. Most famously, it franchise tagged Kirk Cousins two years in a row before he left for the Minnesota Vikings. Just last year, it had Brandan Scherff playing under the franchise tag only to see him walk this off-season.

Getting no compensation for all-star players leaving is a huge blow to a program, and the Commanders should seek to avoid the same situation with Payne.

The Payne news also raises big questions about what the Commanders will do with the number 11 pick in the draft. Most analysts have projected the team to take a wide receiver. There’s a lot of talent at the top end of this year’s class and the team desperately needs another game breaking wide out to take the heat off McLaurin.

However, the team has used a first-round draft pick to bolster its defensive front seven in each of the last five NFL drafts. Payne’s inevitable departure could be a signal that they plan to do it again this season.

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