The Cleveland Browns had a problem last year: they could not stop the run. At the heart of the issue was the defensive tackle room. This consisted of veterans Jordan Elliott, Tavon Bryan, and Tommy Togiai, plus rookies Perrion Winfrey and Roderick Perry.
So this year, GM Andrew Berry placed this group front-and-center as the most group that needed the most attention. It has been seen on many a mock draft the Browns taking a DT with their first pick in this year’s NFL draft in the second round at pick #43 and even again in a later round. But first, free agency.
Berry then inked Dalvin Tomlinson (6’-3”, 325 pounds), formerly of the Minnesota Vikings. Tomlinson will become a Day 1 starter in newly-minted Jim Schwartz’s defense.
Sources: The #Browns are expected to sign former #Vikings DT Dalvin Tomlinson, landing their coveted big-time defenders on Day 1 of free agency. He gets a 4-year deal worth $57M with $27.5M guaranteed.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 14, 2023
On Wednesday, the Browns also signed injured DT Maurice Hurst from San Francisco.
So who is Dalvin Tomlinson?
He is a musician and an artist. He is a super-intellect guy who was offered a Harvard University scholarship. He won multiple state championships in high school, and regrettably, became an orphan before he graduated. He is a children’s mentor and philanthropist.
And with all these gifts from God, his coach nicknamed him “The Renaissance Man.”
But is it worth the $57 million deal for four years with $27.5 million guaranteed that Cleveland gave Tomlinson? What can the Browns expect from him? We all know that a stud defensive tackle is needed, but did Berry sign the right guy?
Tomlinson (age 29) grew up in McDonough, Georgia. He lost both of his parents before he graduated with honors from high school. His father, Willie Gleaton, passed away from sickle cell disease when Tomlinson was just five years old.
As he began to grow into a very large teenager, he excelled and enjoyed various sports while attending Henry County High School.
He was the shot putter on the track team. In the spring and summer, he played soccer on his high school teams. Tomlinson played defensive end in football and was named an All-American candidate two years in a row plus selected All-State his junior and senior years.
But his main sport was wrestling.
During his high school career, Tomlinson went 169-2 and was a Three-Time State Champion. Wrestlers make excellent defensive tackles. He was the first wrestler in Georgia state history to win three heavyweight championships. In his senior season, Tomlinson finished 49-0 and pinned his final opponent in nine seconds.
But football would be his ticket.
He was the nation’s 20th-ranked ranked defensive tackle coming out of high school. Tomlinson was recruited by Florida, USC, Alabama, Florida State, Georgia - and Harvard. The latter wanted him for his intellect but was concordant of him also playing on their football squad as he worked on multiple degrees. Despite the intrigue of a Harvard degree (or three), he chose Alabama. That was a decision he made with his mother, Melinda Tomlinson.
Life usually doesn’t follow the rules.
In the summer before his senior year, his mother died of heart disease which promoted kidney failure. This was a lady who played video games with her son and required him to keep his grade-point average above 4.0. She would also work the concession stand during football games and could be heard from anywhere her booming voice full of encouragement. She would also make his favorite dessert, strawberry shortcake.
Tomlinson’s aunt Mary became his legal guardian. His older brother Labronzo left school in Tennessee and moved back home to help out. Tomlinson’s course studies were all Advanced Placement classes and honors.
After graduating with a 4.4 GPA, Tomlinson left for the University of Alabama, a place his mother liked and felt comfortable sending her son. To Tomlinson, Alabama was always a reminder of his mother. In the 11th hour, the University of Georgia made a hard push for him, but he recalled his mother telling him that Alabama was a good fit for him and so he kept his agreement.
The Tomlinson family living in that area of Georgia dates back to the Civil War. Their family built one of the first churches in Georgia after the Union Army had left everything in ashes.
Tomlinson plays three several musical instruments: guitar, trumpet, and piano, as well as multiple percussion instruments. He is an avid gamer and an excellent artist. After his mother passed away, he found love letters from his father who had drawn little cartoons on his notes. That explained to Tomlinson where God’s gift was derived. He recalled his mother and himself would draw many an afternoon for hours.
“I love it. I’m a well-rounded person,” he told Vikings.com. “I feel like all the interests I had as a kid, I could do them. I liked so much different stuff, I just went different routes with everything. I had a great childhood.”
Tomlinson is also into the comic book universe of Marvel. With Minnesota, he began using the Thanos marking on gamedays and would give a nod to those characters through TikTok and Instagram posts. But his favorite was The Flash which is a DC character.
Alabama Crimson Tide bound
The first day that Tomlinson arrived on the Alabama campus, head coach Nick Saban drove him around on a golf cart to the business school so that he could meet his professors. Next, a tour of the football facilities and of course where meals would be served.
“People don’t understand: It’s like Nick Saban’s got this power. You can’t tell him no,” Tomlinson told the StarTribune. “Everything he fed me, it sounded good.”
As a freshman, he only played in one game and netted four tackles. In his sophomore year, he was inserted into eight games and had 22 tackles, one sack plus 4.5 tackles for loss. Tomlinson was able to get significant playing time as a junior in 2015 where he played in all 14 games. That season he had 34 tackles, five pass defenses plus a half sack. But more important than stats, Alabama defeated Clemson University 45-40 in the National Championship Game watched by 26.18 million viewers.
The defensive line consisted of A’Shawn Robinson, Jonathan Allen, Jarran Reed and Tomlinson as the fourth man in. Allen would be selected in the first round of the NFL while the other three became second-round choices while their DC was Kirby Smart. By the way, the QB for Clemson was Deshaun Watson.
“(Tomlinson’s) played extremely well for us, and we consider him a starter, even though he doesn’t start,” Saban said about Tomlinson to al.com. “We certainly consider him that way, and he plays a huge role on the defensive front because of the diversity that he has as a player.”
During Tomlinson’s junior year, there were impromptu wrestling matches in the Alabama locker room between Tomlinson and Robinson (6’-4”, 320 pounds) who had wrestled some during high school. Nose tackle Da’Ron Payne would also get in on matches who could already bench press 500 pounds. In most matches, Tomlinson showed why he had won three state titles.
As a a senior, Tomlinson was a demon along the defensive line. He had 62 total tackles, three sacks plus 5.5 tackles for loss. He was known for being strong against the run as 55 of his 62 tackles came on running downs. That Alabama defensive line featured Allen, Payne, Tomlinson and De’Shawn Hand. Payne was taken in the first round while Hand was a fourth-round pick.
Tomlinson was known for his motor. But his mother was always his inspiration.
“She was the biggest influential person in my life,” Tomlinson told al.com. “She was my best friend. We could talk about anything. She always motivated me to be better, and she was always proud of all of my accomplishments.”
He graduated from Alabama with a finance degree with plans to pursue a master’s degree. He could have graduated with an art degree. Tomlinson draws mostly cartoon and anime characters from shows such as Batman and Dragon Ball Z.
On to the NFL
Tomlinson was invited to the Reese’s Senior Bowl and was one of the brighter lights along the defense that week. He was then taken in the second round of the NFL draft in 2017 by the New York Football Giants who were having run stoppage issues as well at the time.
The Giants signed him to a $4.572 million four-year deal. Often when not at practices, he would visit cancer hospitals in New Jersey meeting with patients going through chemotherapy. They set him up with Good Grief which he could then start visiting with kids who’d lost loved ones. While at a 2019 Super Bowl party down the road from his hometown in Atlanta, he was introduced to Kate’s Club. More on these two groups later.
Later, he married his high school sweetheart Giselle Devot.
Dalvin Tomlinson is playing out of his mind so far pic.twitter.com/q5QeZTBBQR— Theo Ash (@TheoAshNFL) December 11, 2022
When his rookie contract was up, he signed with Minnesota in free agency on a two-year deal worth $21 million. At the time the Vikings were ranked 27th in the league against the run allowing 134.4 yards per game. Tomlinson was inked to help solve that issue.
“You can learn different things to bring to your game,” Tomlinson told the StarTribune. “And a younger guy may give you a new move you never thought you’d try, and now it’s one of your favorite moves. Everybody brings something different to the table in our D-line room.”
In his two-year stint with Minnesota, he had 81 total tackles, 13 sacks, two fumble recoveries, two pass defenses, seven batted passes, five tackles for loss and 17 QB hits.
What can Browns’ fan expect out of Tomlinson?
A big dude who will fight and help stop the run. His size is perfect for a DT so that he can get low and underneath the shoulder pads of larger offensive linemen.
His Browns’ contract is a four-year deal worth $57 million, but it is also backloaded. His base salary will be just over $1 million in 2023 with a $15 million signing bonus. So, this fits into what analytics dictate to not overpay for defensive linemen.
Tomlinson told 92.3 The Fan about his expectations coming to Cleveland:
“You can expect a dawg. A guy who wants to help everybody get better and now be selfish on the field. We’re only as strong as our weakest link. I’m going to bring everybody together and go out here and get some wins.”
His favorite charities are Kate’s Club in Atlanta and Good Grief Support Center in New Jersey which assist children on how to cope with losing a sibling or parent. He is often on Zoom calls with different children and begins with bonding questions such as the grade they are in or what video games they play. Slowly, the conversation will evolve into Tomlinson asking a specific child who died in their life, followed by how that makes them feel. It is his way to get kids to open up about their loss and to tell them that it is okay to grieve, cry and miss their loved ones.
Immediately when he was drafted by the Giants, Tomlinson contacted Good Grief and began visiting children who had lost loved ones. In 2019, he helped them raise $420,000. In 2020, he was the Giants’ Walter Payton Man of the Year candidate.
He understood the risk of unaddressed grief in children, and the path it can take them down if they don’t develop healthy coping skills.
Every time Tomlinson takes the football field, he’s grateful for the journey he’s on. From capturing three wrestling state titles to winning the College Football Championship with Alabama in 2015 to being drafted by the Giants in 2017, playing four seasons, and joining the Vikings as a free agent in 2021, Tomlinson has found success.
So, what will the Browns get in Tomlinson? A player that will have his place in stopping the run as a three-down athlete that can have an impact as a pass rusher at the same time.
When asked what he expects his greatest contribution to the defense will be on his 92.3 The Fan interview, his response was:
“Stopping the run as well as being an effective pass rusher. Batting the ball down, getting QB hits….helping someone else get to the QB. I’m excited to get out there and meet everybody and build some chemistry with the rest of the defensive line and go out there and make some plays. I’m super excited to play with Myles.”
When you see him play, notice the “R.I.P. Mom” on one of his gloves. Her booming voice will never be heard from the FirstEnergy Stadium stands, but her memory lives within her son.
It doesn’t matter how successful you become, just never forget the why.