Daron Payne's in-and-out participation at Commanders OTAs this offseason has been overshadowed by the total absence of Terry McLaurin, the initial absence of Chase Young and, naturally, a smattering of other non-football related stories that have surrounded the franchise of late.
However, it also helps that Payne's top boss didn't seem all that perturbed by the defensive lineman's approach as he tries to secure a new contract from the club.
"In talking with Daron," Ron Rivera said Wednesday, "Daron’s doing what he feels is better for him right now, as far as that situation. So we respect that."
Payne wasn't present at all at Wednesday's practice in Ashburn, and in previous open-to-the-media action, he's participated in individual drills before shifting over to a side field for agility work, moving to a hill for sprints or heading inside to the weight room.
To his credit, that's more than McLaurin — who is also seeking a major pay raise — has done, seeing as McLaurin has yet to show up at all. Rivera is appreciative of that and is also grateful for what he believes has been an appropriate amount of contact between Payne and the franchise.
"For the most part, he's communicated with us about what's going on with him and he's been great about that," Rivera said. "For the most part, he comes in, he does the first half of practice. Then when we do the team drills, he hops out... And then he's in meetings afterwards."
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Despite Payne's mostly non-controversial behavior, achieving his end goal still appears rather unlikely.
Though the Commanders, according to OverTheCap, currently have the seventh-most cap space in the league, that figure isn't so relevant when discussing the prospect of expensive extensions such as the one Payne is desiring. The squad looking rich now just doesn't matter so much when drawing up three-, four- and five-year pacts.
Plus, McLaurin will probably take priority over Payne, and after him, Montez Sweat and Chase Young are guys the organization may want to set aside money for. With those latter two potentially heading toward re-upping and Jonathan Allen doing so last summer, the defensive line could be trending in a very expensive direction.
Having established that, Payne is still a useful piece up front for Rivera, and therefore, it's smart of Rivera not to bash him.
Perhaps the Commanders could swing a trade involving Payne before Week 1, but presently, his abilities are more valuable to Rivera than a 2023 draft pick. Rivera needs to win immediately and Payne is capable of helping him do so, even if this ends up as his last season in Washington.
Sure, it would be frustrating for both sides to go through 2022 without a resolution to this dilemma and it'd be especially vexing for Payne, because he'll have to play for months (and avoid injury for more months) before hitting free agency.
But so far, the team and the individual are attempting to coexist, and as long as that continues, each should experience benefits shortly.