Potential Cowboys free agent prize likely to be franchise tagged

There was one big fish in free agency that the Cowboys could have made a play for but the latest NFL rumors suggest he will get hit with the franchise tag.

In what is truly a lackluster free agency class for the 2023 offseason overall, there are some bonafide stars at the top of any rankings. And one such stud is former first-round pick Daron Payne, who has spent his first five seasons with the Washington Commanders, blossoming into a game-changing presence on the interior of the defensive line.

However, with Washington in-flux, there was chatter about Payne potentially leaving the team that drafted him in free agency. And one potential fit was the Dallas Cowboys — jumping ship to a huge divisional rival. It’s something that Micah Parsons had previously floated the notion of on Twitter and that, if the Cowboys could clear cap room, would make a ton of sense for the team’s needs.

Unfortunately, it’s probably not going to happen.

NFL Rumors: Potential Cowboys target Daron Payne expected to get franchise tagged

According to a report from Ben Standig of The Athletic (subscription required), the Commanders are expected to place the franchise tag on Daron Payne, which, if it’s the exclusive tag, would not allow him to hit free agency this offseason.

The Commanders are only $8.35 million under the cap, so they would have to create some room to keep Payne on the tag, but they’d be more than willing to do that. Having said that, it remains to be seen if the franchise would be able to work out a long-term deal with their star defensive tackle or if he’d play the 2023 season on the tag.

With that said, the Cowboys could have backup plans that would also steal from rivals that they could explore as guys like Javon Hargrave or Fletcher Cox come to mind at the same position. In any case, though, Dallas won’t be able to steal Payne from Washington, which is a big early domino to fall in free agency.

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