Payne is looking for a contract extension before the start of the 2022 season. Washington floated the idea of a new deal earlier in the offseason, but things have soured on that front since April's draft.
Last week, Payne walked off the practice field and skipped team drills on Tuesday over his anger due to the situation. According to The Athletic, this could flow into training camp, thus forcing the Commanders to make the call of either extending him or trading him for the top price.
There's pros and cons with both options for Ron Rivera and the front office. Is one a better option than the other?
Payne, 25, has been a staple of Washington's defensive line since being drafted out of Alabama in 2018. In four years he's recorded 227 tackles, 35 QB hits, 22 tackles for loss, 14.5 sacks and an interception.
One thing that bodes well in Payne's favor in terms of working a contract is his previous season. He's coming off a year in which he tallied career-highs in tackles (61) and QB hits (15). He also recorded a career-high in sacks at 4.5.
Highly productive numbers such as these warrant a new contract, but that doesn't mean that Washington is willing to budge. In April, the Commanders used a second-round pick on Alabama defensive tackle Phidarian Mathis, who could be viewed as the long-term replacement at the three-tech.
Washington need defensive line depth after the departures of Matt Ioannidis and Tim Settle in the offseason. Mathis plays a similar style of Payne as well after serving as a nose tackle during his time under Nick Saban.
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Mathis might be the future, but Payne is still part of the present. There are cons of keeping him on the roster, largely due to his value on the market via trade. Should he play on the final year of his rookie deal, Payne would make roughly $8.53 million before hitting free agency.
Any team that would be hoping to trade for Payne would also expect him to sign a long-term contract the second he touched down at the facility. Perhaps Payne wants to bet on himself entering 2022, thus hoping to strengthen his salary come the 2023 offseason.
As for Washington, a player on a one-year deal likely won't draw a high asking price via trade. Payne has lived up to his first round status, but the Commanders won't be able to garner a future Day 1 pick for a player who entering the final year of their rookie deal.
On two years? Sure. One? Washington would be lucky to grab a late second- or early third-round in return. And while the money saved would free up near $9 million in salary cap space to go toward the extensions of Montez Sweat and Chase Young, it hurts the defensive line in year that Washington very well could win the NFC East outright.
There comes a point where every franchise has to decide on the status of certain players. Washington already extended defensive tackle Jonathan Allen and could begin negotiations with Sweat. Young has one year left before GM Martin Mayhew can begin laying down the foundation for a long-term deal with the 2020 No. 2 pick.
If Payne and the Commanders understand that 2022 is the final season of their marriage, perhaps its best for the two to cut ties now in hopes of benefiting all parties. Then again, the always is a winner and loser in breakups among the public.
Who would be the loser in a Payne trade?