Mired in another disappointing season, we could see Washington Commanders general manager Martin Mayhew start to sell off parts of the roster. Perhaps the most available player who could bring the most value back via trade is the 13th overall pick from the 2018 NFL Draft, defensive tackle Daron Payne.
While the Commanders have several parts on their roster other teams would have great interest in, chances are the likes of Chase Young, Montez Sweat, and Jamin Davis just aren’t available. And other players like William Jackson have likely been on the block for several weeks. Only the Commanders can’t find a taker for his remaining salary ($13.8M cap hit in 2022, $15.7M cap hit in 2023).
This leads us back to Payne, who’s set for free agency at the end of the season, and could very well be on the move ahead of the Nov. 1 NFL trade deadline. If head coach Ron Rivera and the front office have already come to the conclusion that Payne will command a contract too rich for Washington’s blood, wouldn’t it make more sense to trade the 25-year-old DT before he walks as a free agent? Exactly. Here we look at three potential trade landing spots for Daron Payne.
Daron Payne solidifies Cincinnati’s defensive interior
- Daron Payne stats in 2022: 24 tackles (5 for loss), 3.5 sacks, 10 QB hits, 1 safety, 3 pass deflections
Payne splits his time on the line between playing defensive tackle and also on the end. But it doesn’t matter where the versatile lineman lines up, he gets pressure on the interior, forcing QBs to uncork the ball quicker than they’d like to. While Payne has shown his value by frequently creating problems for his opponent, he may not be in Washington’s long-term plans.
Meanwhile, the Cincinnati Bengals have experienced some hardships as they look to repeat as AFC champions. Stud defensive tackle D.J. Reader is on injured reserve and has no timetable to return. While he’s their top run-stuffer, even when Reader’s healthy, the Bengals still have a need to create more interior pressure, which is Payne’s calling card.
Cincinnati has averaged the seventh-fewest sacks per game, whereas Payne has tallied 3.5 sacks and ten hurries to go with 21 pressures already this season. The sacks would be the team-high for the Bengals, and he’d likely cost Cincinnati their second-round pick or possibly a third-round selection in addition to a late-round pick.
It’s a worthy price to pay to salvage a season while also getting a chance to immerse a very talented player into your culture, seeing if it’s a fit before spending big bucks in free agency. If Payne leaves as a free agent, well, the Bengals are still likely to get a third-round pick based on the compensatory pick formula. It’s a win-win for any team that acquires him, but Washington knows Payne’s worth too.
Arizona Cardinals look to bring the Payne
- Daron Payne contract: $8.5 million cap hit in 2022 (final year of rookie contract)
Another team that hasn’t been able to capitalize on the pressure they’ve generated is JJ Watt’s Arizona Cardinals. The Cards have the fourth-fewest sacks this season, averaging just 1.6 takedowns per game. It’s not for a lack of pressure, as Arizona has the fourth-most hurries and the 11th-most pressures, but just hasn’t been able to actually bring down the quarterback. Payne can help finish the job instead of leaving it up to his teammates, giving Watt a much-needed second presence who can consistently bring down opposing QBs.
The Cardinals are in an extremely tough NFC West, and head coach Kliff Kingsbury is squarely on the hot seat, fighting to prove his offense is legitimate. We’ve seen GM Steve Keim make one move by adding Robbie Anderson when Marquise Brown went down with an injury. It’s possible we see him continue making trades, only this time to boost a 27th-ranked defense instead.
Cleveland Browns improve their team Payne-free
- Daron Payne’s trade cost: Possibly could be had for a second-round pick or a third + late-round selection
Surprisingly, it’s been the defense that’s held Cleveland back through the first seven weeks of the season, as the Browns are allowing the fifth-most points per game. What better way to help Jacoby Brissett and Co. improve upon the team’s 2-5 record than by adding another upper-echelon talent to the defensive line?
Imagine having Myles Garrett and Jadeveon Clowney rushing off the edge with Payne rushing the pocket up the middle. Suddenly the linebackers and secondary would have less of a burden on their shoulders, not having to cover as long with the defensive line getting to the quarterback even quicker on a snap-by-snap basis. Payne can help generate more sacks and clog up run lanes, improving defensive coordinator Joe Woods’ unit as a whole. Yet, with limited future draft capital, we could see Cleveland feeling apprehensive about spending even more.