One of the more surprising turn of events ahead of the 2022 NFL trade deadline was that the Washington Commanders decided to remain pat despite rumors swirling around defensive tackle, Daron Payne. There were reports that Washington could have picked up a Day 2 pick in exchange for the impending free-agent defensive tackle. Instead, he is set to hit the open free agency market and the Las Vegas Raiders could be a team to watch.
A big reason that he was held onto was likely because Washington believed they could compete for a playoff spot still. In the two weeks since the deadline, that perception certainly hasn’t changed.
The Commanders went right down to the wire with the Minnesota Vikings in Week 9 as they held a 10-point fourth quarter lead that they were unable to hold onto. In Week 10 they went on the road to face their NFC East rivals, the Philadelphia Eagles and handed them their first loss of the season.
Payne was especially disruptive against the Vikings, picking up a sack with six combined tackles, four tackles for a loss and two quarterback hits. With Chase Young returning to the lineup soon, the Commanders are going to have what could be the best defensive line in the NFL with Payne and Jonathan Allen at the defensive tackle spots bookended by Young and Montez Sweat.
However, all of that defensive line talent is why Payne could leave in free agency in 2023. Washington already committed a huge contract to Allen, while extensions for Young and Sweat aren’t far behind. There is certainly a chance that the team makes it work and retains all of their recent first-round picks, but it is slim.
It would not be surprising if a team offered Payne a sizable contract and Washington elected to let him leave, hoping to recoup a compensatory draft pick in 2024. One team to keep an eye on in that scenario is the Las Vegas Raiders.
2022 has been a major disappointment for Las Vegas as they are 2-7 in Josh McDaniels’ first season as head coach. A recent vote of confidence for him has been applauded by the players and hopefully, they can finish this season with some positive momentum.
One area they have struggled mightily in is pressuring the quarterback. The addition of Chandler Jones to bookend Maxx Crosby has been a bust as Crosby remains productive but they have received nothing out of their big free agent acquisition.
Payne would be a nice addition as a pass rusher from the interior as he has 5.5 sacks on the season. Outside of Crosby, who has seven sacks, there isn’t a single Raider with more than one. Jones has only 0.5 in nine games, proving to be arguably the biggest free agent bust of the offseason.
With some money to spend this offseason, you can expect the Raiders to look to address their pass rush in a major way. Outside of a potential quarterback change, that is the spot that will require the most attention in the 2023 offseason.