If Payne plays on the franchise tag, he is projected to receive $18.937 million. It is a nonexclusive tag, meaning other teams can talk to Payne, but Washington has begun contract talks on a long-term deal, sources told ESPN. The team has until July 17 to do so. After that, the Commanders can't negotiate with him until after the 2023 season.
Payne recorded a career-high 11.5 sacks last season -- three shy of his combined total over his first four seasons. His previous high in sacks was in his rookie season, when he finished with five. Only two defensive tackles posted higher sack totals in 2023: Kansas City's Chris Jones and the New York Jets' Quinnen Williams.
Payne also finished tied for eighth in the NFL -- and second among interior linemen -- with 21 tackles for loss. Teammate Jon Allen recorded 19 tackles for loss along with 6.5 sacks, making this pair arguably the NFL's best defensive interior tandem.
Payne, selected 13th overall in the 2018 draft, has started 75 games and has not missed a game over the past three seasons. He has forced four fumbles -- recovering the same amount -- in five seasons, though none in the past two.
Payne was named an alternate for the Pro Bowl and was added to the game when others ahead of him could not attend.
Washington signed Allen to an extension before the 2021 season and will soon have two other defensive linemen up for new deals. End Montez Sweat will be a free agent after the season, and the Commanders remain undecided about picking up the fifth-year option on fellow end Chase Young, who played just 12 games the past two years combined because of a torn right ACL and ruptured patellar tendon.