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Daron Payne’s option is exercised as Washington continues to invest in its defensive line

Defensive tackle Daron Payne will receive a $8.5 million salary in 2022. (John McDonnell/The Washington Post)

In a move that ensures at least three-quarters of its defensive line stays under team control through 2022, the Washington Football Team exercised the fifth-year contract option for defensive tackle Daron Payne, a person with knowledge of the situation said Monday.

The one-year salary, for 2022, is worth approximately $8.5 million and is fully guaranteed, thanks to a change in the collective bargaining agreement. Before the 2020 CBA, fifth years were guaranteed for injury only, and salary calculations were based on a player’s draft slot and position. For first-round picks drafted in 2018 and beyond, performance and play time also factor into fifth-year salaries.

Washington had until May 3 to pick up Payne’s option, and it was expected the team would exercise it to keep the crux of its defense together at a relatively low rate. His salary for 2022 ranks ninth among defensive tackles for that season.

For 2021, the final season of Payne’s rookie contract, he is due a fully guaranteed $2.5 million base salary and carries a $4.6 million salary cap hit.

The No. 13 pick of the 2018 draft, Payne became a staple on Washington’s interior defensive line as a rookie, alongside Jonathan Allen, and has since helped form one of the league’s top defensive fronts with fellow first-round picks Chase Young and Montez Sweat on the edge.

Last season, while playing the most snaps of any player on Washington’s line (881), Payne had 54 tackles, three sacks, one interception, three forced fumbles and one fumble recovery. His 86 run stops over the past three years are a team high during that span, according to Pro Football Focus.

Washington’s defense jumped from 27th in total yards and 31st against the run in 2019 to second and tied for 13th in 2020 under first-year coordinator Jack Del Rio. Its starters on the defensive line are all first-round picks still playing on their rookie contracts, but it will soon become costly to keep the group together. Allen, the No. 17 pick in 2017, is on his fifth year and has a $10.05 million salary for 2021. It’s plausible the team engages in talks for an extension after the season.

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