Commanders begin offensive line overhaul with Wylie, Gates
Defensive tackle Daron Payne is under contract long term, and now the Washington Commanders are starting to address their biggest need, the offensive line.
After signing Payne to a four-year contract worth $90 million with $60 million guaranteed, the Commanders spent Monday adding depth and versatility with former Kansas City Chiefs tackle/guard Andrew Wylie and ex-New York Giants center/guard Nick Gates.
A person with knowledge of the contract said Washington agreed to terms with Wylie on a $24, million, three-year deal. A person with knowledge of Gates’ deal said he got a three-year contract.
On the other side of the ball, another person said the Commanders agreed to terms with linebacker Cody Barton on a fully guaranteed contract for next season.
All three people spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the contracts cannot be signed or become official until the new league year opens Wednesday. Washington did add a player without waiting Monday, claiming cornerback Cameron Dantzler off waivers from Minnesota.
“We got a bunch of young talent on our team, and we’re always just one little piece away from being good,” Payne said after signing his contract. “Hopefully we can put together some pieces and make a run.”
More pieces are coming into place.
Wylie, who turns 29 in August, started all 17 regular-season and all three playoff games for the Chiefs on their second Super Bowl run in four years. He played guard when they won it all during the 2019 season.
Gates, 27, brings similar position flexibility after splitting time at guard and center during his 42 games with the Giants over the past four seasons. Adding Gates is similar to Washington bringing in Wes Schweitzer for interior depth in 2020.
Wylie is the second player to follow new offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy to the Commanders from Kansas City. Wide receiver/special teams player Marcus Kemp signed not long after the Super Bowl when the Chiefs opted not to keep him.
Coach Ron Rivera and Bieniemy agreed the offensive line needed fixing after the Commanders allowed 48 sacks last season, eighth most in the league. The unit could have a few new starters in front of likely starting quarterback Sam Howell.
Linebacker was another area of need, whether multiyear starter Cole Holcomb returns following a foot injury that cut last season short. Barton, 26, started 11 and played in 17 games last season for Seattle.
Dantzler, who’s set to turn 25 before Week 1, was injured in the Vikings’ game at Washington last season. The Commanders assume his contract through next season after Minnesota waived him over the weekend.
Washington in free agency is still looking for a veteran to compete with, push or fill in for Howell if things go wrong for the 2022 fifth-round pick with just one game of NFL experience. That could be Taylor Heinicke if he returns.
There was little doubt Payne was coming back after leading the team with a career-high 11 1/2 sacks. The Commanders put the $18.9 million franchise tag on Payne last month in the hopes of hammering out a long-term deal, and that came to fruition Sunday.
“I’m just glad that we were able to get it done quickly and didn’t have to wait all through the summer and all that stuff,” Payne said.
It’s the second-biggest contract for a defensive tackle, behind only seven-time All-Pro Aaron Donald.
“It hasn’t hit me yet,” Payne said. “Probably when I actually see the change in my bank account, it’ll probably settle in. But it’s definitely a blessing.”
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