Scratch one potential free agent target for the Pittsburgh Steelers off the board.
According to a report from ESPN’s Adam Schefter Tuesday morning, the Washington Commanders placed the franchise tag on defensive lineman Daron Payne, taking him off the market in free agency while allowing the Commanders to try and negotiate a long-term deal with the star defensive lineman.
Under the franchise tag in 2023 as a defensive tackle, Payne will earn $18.937 million, according to OverTheCap.com. Washington has until July 15 to try and reach a long-term deal with Payne.
Entering the offseason, Payne was a popular name that was thrown around for the Steelers, considering the help they need on the defensive line next to star Cameron Heyward, with Larry Ogunjobi and Chris Wormley set to hit free agency, and Tyson Alualu likely to retire.
Payne, who was a first-round pick in 2018 at No. 13 overall, played at Alabama under current Steelers’ defensive line coach Karl Dunbar, making the connection prominent overall.
Still just 25 years old, Payne is coming off of a career year, earning his first Pro Bowl selection while racking up career highs in sacks (11.5), QB hits (20) and tackles for loss (18). He’s missed just one game since Washington drafted him in 2018. In his five years in the NFL, Payne has 291 tackles, 40 tackles for loss, 26.0 sacks, 55 quarterback hits, 14 passes defensed, four forced fumbles, four fumble recoveries and one interception.
Though he was a popular name connected to the Steelers due to the connections to Dunbar, Payne was never really a realistic target overall, in large part due to the price tag. The franchise tag all but confirms that as he’ll make nearly $19 million in 2023, and should be right around that price tag on a long-term deal with the Commanders, should they be able to reach an agreement.
With Payne off the board, names like Javon Hargrave, Dre’Mont Jones, and Poona Ford will get significant boots along the interior of the defensive line when it comes to attention in free agency.