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Breakdown of DT Dalvin Tomlinson’s contract with the Browns

Andrew Berry comes off like a wizard with some of these structures.

Cleveland Browns Offseason Workout Photo by Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty Images

The next contract for the Cleveland Browns that we are breaking down is for DT Dalvin Tomlinson, who signed with the team on March 15 as one of three key defensive additions. Although we knew about the details of his contract pretty quickly, it’s still fun to go through and dissect it year-by-year. Tomlinson signed a 4-year deal worth $57 million.

DT Dalvin Tomlinson’s Contract, Cap Hits Per Year

Year Base Salary Signing Bonus Option Bonus Roster Bonus Total Cap Hit
Year Base Salary Signing Bonus Option Bonus Roster Bonus Total Cap Hit
2023 $1,080,000 $3,017,000 $0 $191,165 $4,288,165
2024 $1,210,000 $3,017,000 $2,025,000 $250,000 $6,502,000
2025 $3,000,000 $3,017,000 $4,025,000 $1,500,000 $11,542,000
2026 $3,000,000 $3,017,000 $6,025,000 $1,500,000 $13,542,000
2027 $0 $3,017,000 $6,025,000 $0 $21,067,000
2028 $0 $0 $6,025,000 $0 $0
2029 $0 $0 $4,000,000 $0 $0
2030 $0 $0 $2,000,000 $0 $0
Total $8,290,000 $15,085,000 $30,125,000 $3,441,165 $56,941,165
  • Tomlinson has $25 million fully guaranteed, which consists of his 2023 base salary ($1.08 million), a $15.085 million signing bonus, and $8.835 million of his option bonus in 2024.
  • Once again, there are multiple layers to this contract, and thanks to Jason from Over the Cap for help clarifying them to me — I hope I interpreted and connected the dots on everything correctly for what I’m about to describe!
  • Initially, you have the traditional signing bonus worth $15.085 million for Tomlinson, which is spread out over five years. Then in 2024, on the first day of the league year, there is a $10.125 million option bonus, which will be spread over five years starting in 2024.
  • Where things got tricky was in 2025 and 2026. Over the Cap listed Tomlinson’s base salary as $3 million, while Spotrac, Pro Football Talk, and The OBR listed it as $13 million. Over the Cap was treating it more like an option bonus, though, with void years extending all the way out to 2030 potentially. That is what I asked Jason to explain to me.
  • In a nutshell, let’s use 2025 as an example. Tomlinson will be due a $10 million option bonus, but the option date likely won’t be some time until the summer. Therefore, Cleveland can go through free agency without having to carry that $10 million cap hit on the books yet, which could impact the type of players Cleveland wants to sign in free agency. Then, as they assess the roster, they can decide to exercise the option (and spread it over five years), or they could not exercise the option (but still keep Tomlinson), and it instead would convert to being added to his base salary ($13 million total), which is what Pro Football Talk reported. Cleveland also would have the luxury of cutting him before that option bonus date, if they feel they are already fine at the position and want to spend the funds elsewhere. Last, but not least — because Jason pointed this out as a strong possibility — the team could restructure the deal before that option date, encourage a pay cut, etc. It gives the general manager a ton of flexibility, while still maintaining the rights to the player.
  • The same exact scenario would happen in 2026. And then in 2027, the contract voids.
  • Now for some other nuggets. In 2023 and 2024, Tomlinson gets a $14,706 roster bonus for every game that he plays. Why is the roster bonus amount smaller for 2023 ($191,165 instead of the full $250,000)? Because the first year uses the previous season’s number of games played (13 games with the Vikings) as counting toward the cap. Now, if Tomlinson plays more than 13 games, he’ll still earn those bonuses, and then they would be used as carryover adjustments heading into the 2024 offseason for cap purposes.
  • That $14,706 per-game roster bonus (totaling $250,000 for the season) also applies to 2025 and 2026. The reason the numbers in the table are larger is because in 2025 and 2026, Tomlinson gets an automatic $750,000 roster bonus if he’s on the roster the 3rd day of that new league year.
  • If the Browns wanted to cut Tomlinson, it wouldn’t be until after the second year of his deal, heading into 2025. They could do so before his $10 million option bonus is due, and if they cut him straight up, they’d carry $17.151 million in dead cap. However, they could make him a post-June 1st cut to split that dead cap up — $5.042 million in dead cap in 2025, and $12.109 million in dead cap in 2026. That’s not to say you want to cut Tomlinson. Ideally, you want him to be a beast so you can keep him, restructure his contract, etc. But if he ends up being a total bust, that is your out. This scenario is laid out in the table below:

DT Dalvin Tomlinson’s Contract if Browns Cut Him in 2025 (Post-June 1st)

Year Base Salary Signing Bonus Option Bonus Roster Bonus Total Cap Hit
Year Base Salary Signing Bonus Option Bonus Roster Bonus Total Cap Hit
2023 $1,080,000 $3,017,000 $0 $191,165 $4,288,165
2024 $1,210,000 $3,017,000 $2,025,000 $250,000 $6,502,000
2025 $0 $3,017,000 $2,025,000 $0 $5,042,000
2026 $0 $6,034,000 $6,075,000 $0 $12,109,000
Total $2,290,000 $15,085,000 $10,125,000 $441,165 $27,941,165