Browns Defensive Starter Signs New Deal With Cleveland

Jordan Elliott, Browns

Getty Defensive tackle Jordan Elliott of the Cleveland Browns celebrates after sacking quarterback Marcus Mariota, formerly of the Atlanta Falcons, during a game in October 2022.

The Cleveland Browns this week locked in one of their defensive starters to a new contract for the 2023 season.

Defensive tackle Jordan Elliott started all 17 games for Cleveland last year and is positioned to start Week 1 in September, even despite an overhaul on the line that saw the Browns trade for edge rusher Za’Darius Smith and sign tackle Dalvin Tomlinson to a four-year, $57 million deal.

Elliott’s circumstances with the franchise grew more complicated this offseason, as the 2020 third-round pick out of Missouri entered the fourth year of his rookie deal. As a player selected outside of the first round, Elliott qualified for a pay bump to north of $2.7 million in non-guaranteed money based on the league’s Proven Performance Escalator. However, that salary increase also rendered him a potential cut candidate.

Instead of risking his spot on the roster and a guaranteed paycheck in his fourth season, Elliott agreed to a new deal that pays him the league minimum of $1.01 million in base salary as well as a signing bonus of $490,000. Both of those figures are fully-guaranteed, which means he will earn $1.5 million no matter what, and that the Browns have essentially locked him into the roster for the 2023 campaign.

Elliott can also earn up to $200,000 in incentives based on the number of games he plays, which renders his contract worth $1.7 million in total and still allows him to hit free agency next offseason.

Jordan Elliott’s Necessity to Browns in 2022 Made Him Potentially Expendable in 2023

Jordan Elliott, Browns

GettyDefensive tackle Jordan Elliott of the Cleveland Browns reacts after sacking quarterback Marcus Mariota, formerly of the Atlanta Falcons, during a game in October 2022.

The Proven Performance Escalator tool is part of the NFL’s collective bargaining agreement (CBA) that allows for players drafted later than round one to qualify for salary increases in accordance with percentage of snaps played and Pro-Bowl honors earned.

Elliott qualified for the lowest of the three levels of pay increase based on the number of snaps he played in his second and third seasons.

“This [gave Elliott] the base salary equal to that of a right of first refusal restricted free agent tender in 2023, which is $2.743 [million],” Jack Duffin of the Orange and Brown Report wrote on Thursday, June 9. “This is the same tender that the Browns put on [running back] D’ernest Johnson this offseason. These aren’t guaranteed.”

“[That] makes a player a cut candidate,” Duffin continued. “If you could get, say, Matt Ioannidis for $5 [million] for one year, then you are more likely to cut Elliott.”

Jordan Elliott Likely to Start on Revamped, Expensive Browns Defensive Line

Myles Garrett

GettyCleveland Browns defensive end Myles Garrett (left) talks with franchise co-owner Jimmy Haslam (right).

After Elliott’s decision to take the lower, fully-guaranteed deal, fans can expect him to don a Browns jersey for at least one more season. Cleveland may still bring in more reinforcements along its defensive line, but there’s a pretty good chance that Elliott, should he remain healthy, will earn his $200,000 in incentives by starting alongside Tomlinson.

The Browns will pay nearly $37 million against the salary cap in 2023 for Tomlinson, Smith and Myles Garrett combined, though the actual cash value of those three contracts is north of $44 million next season. It’s a massive investment on Cleveland’s part in what was arguably the team’s worst unit on either side of the football last year.

The defensive line struggled defending up the middle specifically, though Elliott was the most reliable member of the bunch in 2022. He tallied 36 tackles, including five tackles for loss, eight quarterback pressures, two sacks and two pass breakups across 17 games played.

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