The Washington Commanders and defensive tackle Daron Payne have reached agreement on a four-year, $90 million deal that includes $60 million guaranteed, sources told ESPN's Adam Schefter on Sunday.
The Commanders had placed the franchise tag on Payne earlier this month, but then quickly started negotiating with Payne's representatives. Several days ago, a source said talks were quickly progressing. The Commanders wanted to strike a deal before free agency to help them retain their other key players and to also be more active in free agency.
The contract makes Payne the second-highest-paid defensive tackle in history behind the Los Angeles Rams' Aaron Donald.
Payne becomes the fourth NFL defensive lineman to receive $60 million or more guaranteed, according to ESPN Stats & Information research, joining Cleveland Browns defensive end Myles Garrett ($100 million), Kansas City Chiefs defensive tackle Chris Jones ($60 million) and Donald ($60 million).
Payne recorded career highs in sacks (11.5) and tackles for loss (21) last season. Among defensive tackles, he was third in sacks and second in tackles for loss.
Payne, a first-round pick in 2018, recorded 14.5 sacks in his first four seasons combined, but the team transitioned to a different system for the linemen (they went from being responsible to holding two gaps to rushing one). The Commanders' coaches felt Payne's breakout season coincided in part with being more comfortable in this style.
Payne and teammate Jon Allen formed a formidable tandem inside. Allen, voted to the Pro Bowl, recorded 19 tackles for loss along with 6.5 sacks, making this pair arguably the NFL's best defensive interior tandem. Payne made the Pro Bowl as an alternate but was later added to the event when others ahead of him could not attend.
Payne, selected 13th overall in the 2018 draft, has started 75 games in his career and has not missed a game the past three seasons. He has forced four fumbles (recovering four as well) in five seasons, though none in the past two.
Washington signed Allen to an extension before the 2021 season and has two other defensive linemen up for new deals soon. Defensive end Montez Sweat will be a free agent after the season, and the team remains 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.
Washington also hopes to retain several other key players, including quarterback Taylor Heinicke and linebacker Cole Holcomb.