NFL: Jacksonville Jaguars at Washington Commanders
Scott Taetsch-USA TODAY Sports

The Washington Commanders became the first team in the NFL to deploy the franchise tag this offseason. The club did so early Tuesday morning, announcing that they have tagged star defensive tackle Daron Payne. Under the tag, Payne is projected to make roughly $18.9 million fully guaranteed for the 2023 season. 

This move was an expected one from Washington, who cleared significant cap space on Tuesday following the release of quarterback Carson Wentz. The deadline for the team to use the franchise tag was March 7, otherwise, Payne would have become an unrestricted free agent. Now that the tag has been placed on Payne, the Commanders have until July 17 to sign him to a long-term deal. Once that deadline passes, however, the team will not be able to negotiate with him on a new contract until after the 2023 season.

Because this is not the exclusive franchise tag, Payne also can negotiate with other teams along with the Commanders. If he agrees to a contract with another club, Washington would have the right of first refusal. If they decided to let him go, Payne's new team would have to send the Commanders two first-round picks as compensation or work out some other agreement.  

Payne, 25, has been with the franchise dating back to 2018 when the Commanders took him with the No. 13 overall pick out of Alabama. The 6-foot-3, 320-pounder is coming off a breakout season in 2022 where he was named to the Pro Bowl for the first time in his career. In 17 games, he notched a career-best 11.5 sacks, 64 tackles, and 20 quarterback hits. He also broke up five passes and had a fumble recovery. 

Payne has also been a reliable piece along Washington's defensive line, missing just one game through his first five seasons and played 87% of the defensive snaps in 2022.

This is one of many decisions that the Commanders will have to make along their defensive line over the next few offseasons. The team already extended fellow defensive lineman and former first-rounder Jonathan Allen back in 2021 and have him under contract through the 2025 season. Meanwhile, defensive end Montez Sweat is entering the final year of his rookie contract and the team will need to decide on whether or not they'll pick up the fifth-year option of fellow pass rusher Chase Young, who has been limited to 12 games over the last two seasons. 

Payne was the No. 4 free agent on CBS Sports Senior NFL Analyst Pete Prisco's top 100 list