Seahawks free agent target: Daron Payne could fix the defense

Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports /

The Seahawks need a lot of help along the interior of its defensive line. Some of the help needs to come from defensive tackles who can consistently stop the run. And some of that help needs to come from a nose guard or defensive tackle that can supply interior pass rush. Washington Commanders free agent DT Daron Payne can do both.

But Payne won’t be signed to an inexpensive contract and it might be so high that it scares Seattle general manager John Schneider off. That said, if the Seahawks are able to find the money to bring Payne in, he could help transform a young and somewhat promising defense into one that is capable of winning games without much assistance from the offense. Payne is that good.

Payne also is young himself. He came into the NFL at just 21 years old and is still will be just 26 years old when the 2023 season begins. Payne also stays healthy and productive. He has missed just one game in his career and that was in 2019. Payne is also coming off his best season and was good before that.

Seahawks signing Daron Payne in free agency would fix many issues

No one on the Seahawks appears able to supply the interior pass rush that Payne can. In 2022, Payne had 11.5 sacks, 18 tackles for loss, and 20 quarterback hits from his defensive tackle position. Those numbers would have ranked first, first, and second, respectively, among all Seattle players this season. But compared to Seattle’s other interior defensive linemen, Payne would have had 6 more sacks than the closest player, 12 more tackles for loss than the closest guy, and 7 more quarterback hits than the closest lineman.

Payne would immediately help fix a struggling Seattle defensive line with the pass and run. Seattle needs a player like Payne like three years ago and now he will be a free agent there for the signing. But will John Schneider do that? Seattle doesn’t usually make such splashy signings.

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Again, the issue with bringing Payne to the Seahawks isn’t the talent but the cost. Per Pro Football Focus (subscription required), Payne’s market value is an annual average salary over five seasons of $19,492,231. Seattle theoretically has the cap room, at least for now, but if the Seahawks re-sign Geno Smith there likely is no cap space for Payne. The question is, does Seattle want to fix its defense more than keeping a good quarterback?