Defensive linemen Daron Payne and Montez Sweat are just two weeks away from a significant season. Both for different reasons, but the Commanders have decisions to make on both players’ future in Washington, and I am sure Sweat and Payne are aware of the pressure on them to make the most out of this season from a production standpoint.
Payne is playing on the last year of his rookie contract, as Washington exercised his fifth-year option. With free agency around the corner, Payne is positioned to set himself up for a good payday. When drafted, Payne was a lineman who was looked at as immediate help in run defense but had all the talent to develop a pass-rush toolbox. His projections have come true to this point, for the most part. Payne has been very valuable against the run; however, he is still developing the pass rush toolbox. 2022 will be about how Payne can put everything together in a critical season for his career.
While Payne is playing in the last year of his rookie deal, Sweat’s fifth year will be in 2023. The Commanders have already exercised his fifth-year option; however, from a statistical perspective, Sweat also needs consistency. Sweat had 16 sacks in his first two seasons before accumulating five in his third season, which was consumed with injury and trauma. There were multiple times throughout 2019 where he provided little to no impact as a pass rusher, and a two-sack performance against Cowboys LT Tyron Smith in the season finale dramatically improved the outlook of his potential moving forward. Sweat ultimately showed more in 2020 before an unexpected drop in production from both him and Chase Young, prior to both players’ injuries.
On the latest episode of the Hogs Haven Podcast, Chris Russell and I had a conversation about Sweat and Payne’s future in Washington and how each player is in control of their destiny. We also discussed Chase Young and Carson Wentz and what is at stake for the Commanders coaching staff in 2022.