Daron Payne added to NFC Pro Bowl roster, replaces Aaron Donald

Commanders DT Daron Payne added to NFC Pro Bowl roster originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

Washington Commanders defensive tackle Daron Payne was added to the 2023 NFC Pro Bowl roster on Thursday, replacing Los Angeles Rams star Aaron Donald who pulled out due to injury.

Payne, 25, was originally named the first alternate at his position. Now, he’ll head to Las Vegas for the first Pro Bowl honor of his career.

The former Alabama star turned in his best season to date in 2023, recording a career-high 11.5 sacks, the third-most of any defensive tackle in the NFL. His 18 tackles for loss were the most of any interior defensive lineman in the league.

In December, one day after the Pro Bowl rosters were released, Commanders head coach Ron Rivera admitted he was surprised that Payne was originally left off.

“Yes, I was [surprised] just because of the kind of year he has had,” Rivera said on Dec. 22. “But the other guys they’ve selected all have had great years as well. Now I think that Daron’s name is out there, I think people pay more attention to it. And so that’ll be something that’ll carry him, I think into next year if he plays the way he is playing right now.”

Payne is the fifth member of the Commanders to be named to the Pro Bowl this season, joining defensive tackle Jonathan Allen, wide receiver Terry McLaurin, special teamer Jeremy Reaves, and punter Tress Way. The addition of Payne marks the first time in Washington’s franchise history they’ve had two defensive tackles make the Pro Bowl in the same season.

Three of the Commanders’ five Pro Bowlers — Payne, McLaurin and Reaves — are first-time selections. Way and Allen each earned their second Pro Bowl nod this season. The last time Washington had five Pro Bowlers was in 2016, per the team.

The Pro Bowl honor caps off a big season for Payne, who is set to become a free agent. Rivera and general manager Martin Mayhew expressed significant interest last week in retaining the defensive tackle this offseason.

“We think he’s a piece,” Rivera said on Jan. 10. “He fits the formula of what we wanna do and how we wanna play and he’s got the skillset that you would like to have. We think his presence on the football field was outstanding this season and he did a lot of good things for us.”

Payne seemed less confident he’d return to Washington when addressing media during locker room cleanout, answering “who knows?” when asked if he’d be back. He later added that he wants a contract that will pay him what he’s “earned.”

Payne’s future with the Commanders remains uncertain. But if the 2022 season was his final act in Washington, it was an impressive way to go out.

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