Dalvin Tomlinson has the size, power, athleticism and resume the Browns wanted in a defensive tackle to anchor the line.
He also has the initials for the job.
The Browns ended what had seemed like a frustrating first day of free agency with a flourish, reaching agreement with Tomlinson on a four-year contract worth approximately $57 million, including $27.5 million guaranteed. The deal was struck around 11 p.m. and followed a three-year, $19 million agreement with defensive end Ogbonnia Okoronkwo.
Notes: Center Ethan Pocic returning on 3-year deal
League sources confirmed the deals to The Chronicle-Telegram.
Free agency began at noon with the start of a two-day negotiating period. The league year begins Wednesday at 4 p.m., when the contracts agreed upon Monday and Tuesday can be signed.
Deshaun Watson’s contract restructured, clears about $36 million in salary cap space
Improving the defensive line was at the top of general manager Andrew Berry’s to-do list, and he quickly accomplished it by adding starters at both spots. Tackle was the top priority after the run defense was a disaster as the Browns went 7-10 in 2022 and coordinator Joe Woods was fired after the season. They ranked 25th against the run (135.2 yards), and over the last 14 games allowed at least 130 rushing yards 10 times.
Tomlinson, 29, should go a long way in solving the problem. He’s 6-foot-3, 325 pounds, commands double teams and has never missed more than five tackles in a season.
Tomlinson started all 13 games he played in 2022 with the Vikings, totaling 42 tackles, three for loss, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. He has some pass rush ability, as he had 2.5 sacks and 10 quarterback hits. He’ll join Jordan Elliott, Perrion Winfrey, Tommy Togiai and Ben Stille as the tackles on the roster.
Five questions facing Browns heading into free agency
Tomlinson was a second-round pick of the Giants in 2017 out of Alabama and played in New York for four years before signing a two-year, $21 million deal to join the Vikings. He’s started all 93 games he’s played, including all 64 with the Giants, before missing five over the last two years. He’s compiled 288 tackles, 13 sacks, 26 tackles for loss, 37 quarterback hits, seven passes defensed, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries.
He was named a weekly NFL Players Association Community MVP last season.
Landing Tomlinson came after tackles Javon Hargrave and Dre’Mont Jones had signed elsewhere. Hargrave picked San Francisco and a four-year, $84 million deal, including $40 million guaranteed. He was considered the top tackle and perhaps the No. 1 overall free agent on the market. Jones, a St. Ignatius and Ohio State alum, was thought to be another strong option but agreed to a three-year, $51 million deal with the Seahawks.
In Okoronkwo, Berry found a No. 2 end to play opposite Pro Bowler Myles Garrett, another significant need. Okoronkwo’s deal can reach $22 million, with $12.5 million guaranteed, according to multiple reports.
The Browns may slow down but won’t stop as free agency continues. They could still be in the market for another defensive tackle, a safety to replace John Johnson III and a fast receiver to stretch the field.
Okoronkwo gives them someone to replace Jadeveon Clowney, who’s a free agent and won’t return after registering two sacks and publicly criticizing the front office and coaching staff. Okoronkwo, who will turn 28 in April, is a player the Browns believe has a lot of untapped potential.
“To the Land!!!!!,” he tweeted. “Super Bowl ring #2 loading.”
Number #45 forever
— Ogbo Okoronkwo (@OgboOkoronkwo) March 14, 2023
To The Land!!!!
— Ogbo Okoronkwo (@OgboOkoronkwo) March 14, 2023
Okoronkwo (6-1, 253 pounds) was a fifth-round pick out of Oklahoma in 2018. He has 9.5 sacks in 50 career games but is coming off his best season.
After three years as an outside linebacker in the Rams’ 3-4 scheme, he played end in Houston’s 4-3 system in 2022. He played all 17 games and made the first eight starts of his career — the final eight games — compiling five sacks, nine tackles for loss, 11 quarterback hits, two passes defensed and a forced fumble. He played 518 defensive snaps, nearly half his career total of 1,046.
He came on strong after entering the starting lineup, with his 88.5 pass rushing grade after Week 7 the sixth-best mark among edge defenders, according to Pro Football Focus. The Browns saw his improvement firsthand, as he had a sack and four tackles in Cleveland’s victory in Houston on Dec. 4 in quarterback Deshaun Watson’s return from suspension.
DE Ogbonnia Okoronkwo to the #Browns…
Pass rush upside — playing opposite of Myles Garrett in CLE. First-step quicks. Counters. There’s disruptive ability here on the tape. pic.twitter.com/Ok4udve2t4
— Matt Bowen (@MattBowen41) March 13, 2023
Okoronkwo signed a one-year, $3.25 million contract with the Texans for 2022 and recorded the third-highest pressure rate (16.4 precent) among defenders with at least 200 pas rushes, per Next Gen Stats, and set a career high with 39 pressures. PFF graded him 29th among edge rushers with a 75.1 overall grade — 81.9 as a pass rusher and 61.5 as a run defender.
Okoronkwo’s career got off to a rough start as he missed his rookie season following foot surgery. He was sidelined for six games in the middle of the 2020 season following elbow surgery.
He won a Super Bowl with the Rams after the 2021 season, playing in all four playoff games. He played 10 snaps on defense, with one tackle, and 13 on special teams in the Super Bowl win over the Bengals.
Cleveland’s defensive line will look a lot different from 2022. Besides the additions, backup end Chase Winovich will join Clowney and likely tackle Taven Bryan by going elsewhere.
Winovich will sign with the Texans on a one-year deal worth up to $2.75 million, according to Houston reporter Aaron Wilson.
Winovich, 27, was acquired from the Patriots last offseason in a trade for linebacker Mack Wilson. Winovich suffered a hamstring injury in the preseason and another during the year, limiting him to eight games, including two starts. He had 20 tackles, a sack, a pass defensed, a tackle for loss and three quarterback hits.
“I don’t owe my twitter family and supporters anything but the truth – I whole heartedly loved Cleveland and my teammates there so much.” Winovich tweeted. “Thank you to whole @Browns org – the Haslam family, management, and all the coaches for believing me and for all the love and opportunities!
“As well as all the support staff! Top to bottom the whole org is filled with ppl that are invested in seeing their players succeed and I am so so so grateful
“Zeus and I will always cherish our time here in Cleveland and all the amazing relationships that we’ve made! THANK YOU CLEVELAND!”