On June 16, the Arizona Cardinals signed two NFL free agent defenders, cornerback Josh Jackson and linebacker Ben Niemann, and are capable of making more additions to their defense. The Cardinals had $11.7 million in cap space before the two signings according to OverTheCap.
Bleacher Report’s Ian Wharton gave out a list of trades that NFL teams need to make before the start of training camp. When discussing the Cardinals, Wharton pitched the idea for the Cardinals to trade for Chicago Bears outside linebacker Robert Quinn, who accumulated 18.5 sacks in 2021.
With the Cardinals losing of Chandler Jones to the Las Vegas Raiders n free agency, Wharton thinks it’s paramount to add a Pro Bowl pass rusher.
Wharton wrote, “The best landing spot for the veteran (Robert Quinn) is in Arizona. The Cardinals did not replace (Jones) with a high-impact talent.”
However, there’s another defensive player that could be available for the Cardinals to trade for. Washington Commanders defensive tackle Daron Payne is seeking another deal as he’s entering the final year of his contract. He could be a trade candidate, especially due to the Commander’s defensive line depth of Montez Sweat, Jonathan Allen and 2020 first-round pick Chase Young.
While Wharton linked the Detroit Lions to Payne, the Cardinals could also be an option for the 2018 first-round pick due to their lack of defensive line depth.
The Commanders have put more assets into their defensive line than almost any team in the NFL. In the 2022 draft, they opted to add tackle Phidarian Mathis in the second round, meaning it’s possible they don’t plan on re-signing 2018 first-round pick Daron Payne.
“Payne has been quite good since joining Washington, logging 14.5 sacks and 227 tackles in four seasons. He has a quick first step that challenges centers and guards alike. But he hasn’t been so good that Washington would choose to pay him over Chase Young or Jonathan Allen.
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What Has Led Up to Payne’s Future Question Marks
Payne has appeared in at least 15 games per season since his rookie season in 2018. Despite his consistent availability and production, the Commanders added tackle Phidarian Mathis in the second round of the 2022 draft. Mathis is an affordable option with $42 million already dedicated to Sweat, Allen and Young for multiple seasons. There’s a chance Payne won’t play for the burgundy and gold in 2023.
Also, Payne’s attendance at voluntary OTAs was inconsistent. He participated in individual drills but not team drills. But Payne is ready to work at mandatory minicamps.
“I mean, it was voluntary, so I could’ve did it, but I didn’t have to, so I didn’t,” Payne said, via NBC Washington’s Bijann Todd. “But now it’s minicamp and I’m working.”
Wide receiver Terry McLaurin is another player for the Commanders to worry about in terms of locking up for the future.
The contract talks continue with Payne, but the Alabama product declined to comment on his future.
“That’s between my coach, my agent and me,” Payne said.
While the Commanders haven’t deemed Payne available, the 6’2 320-pound tackle shouldn’t be ruled untouchable. The 25-year-old has yet to make a Pro Bowl and The Athletic reported in May that the Commanders “quietly let other teams know Payne is available for a trade”.
The Commanders exercised the fifth-year option on Payne’s contract last season, making his cap hit at $8.5 million for 2022.
What a Trade Package Could Look Like
Wharton suggested the Lions send defensive Michael Brockers and a 2023 second-round pick to the Commanders for Payne.
Rashard Lawrence and Leki Fotu make up the Cardinals’ defensive tackle position. It wouldn’t be ideal for the Cardinals to trade either player as the team needs bodies at the position.
The Cardinals could trade tight end Maxx Williams and a third-round pick in exchange for Payne.
Arizona locked up tight end Zach Ertz for three seasons and drafted Trey McBride in the second round of the 2022 draft. Williams is also rehabbing after suffering a season-ending knee injury in 2021 and might not be ready for Week 1.
The Commanders lack depth at the tight end position. 30-year-old tight end Logan Thomas missed 11 games in 2021 after catching 75 passes the year prior and John Bates, Cole Turner and Sammis Reyes are the remaining tight ends on the roster.
Williams signed a one-year, $1.2 million contract in the offseason after catching 16 receptions for 193 yards in 2021. He could be an affordable, intriguing option for a team like the Commanders.