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Contract projection for Buffalo Bills left tackle Dion Dawkins

That’s a lotta mac and cheese.

Matt Warren is Associate Director of NFL coverage for SB Nation and previously covered the Bills for Buffalo Rumblings for more than a decade.

The Buffalo Bills selected Dion Dawkins in the second round of the 2017 NFL Draft. He’s now entering the final year of his contract and with a young quarterback developing, the last thing you want is an unsettled left tackle position. So Dawkins is set to cash in big time as soon as the issues with the possible CBA are resolved.

Dawkins is among a trio of players drafted in the 2017 NFL Draft who have become cornerstones for the team along with cornerback Tre’Davious White (contract projection) and linebacker Matt Milano (contract projection).

Evaluating offensive tackles is a bit of a tricky thing without getting into the tape. We’ll do our best to quantify his performance, but he did much better in 2019 than he did in 2018 by most every measure. How much of that was Quinton Spain being better than Vlad Ducasse and Wyatt Teller next to Dawkins?

To quantify his impact, Dawkins allowed 13.5 sacks over the last three seasons and was called for holding six times according to the Washington Post. That’s roughly 20 negative plays for the offense in three years, an average of seven per season.

Dawkins loves mac and cheese, and this new contract will pay him lots of Kraft Blue Box. His rookie deal was for almost $4.2 million over four years, but he’s only seen $3.15 million so he might want to sign sooner rather than later.

Note: The “30% rule” is still in effect for every year of Dawkins’s deal, so his total compensation can’t jump more than 30% from one year to the next (Article 13, section 7 of the CBA). For the 30% rule, that means any compensation that’s not signing bonus (Article 13, section 4a of the CBA).

Comparable contracts

D.J. Humphries (Arizona Cardinals)
Three years, $43.75 million ($29 million guaranteed)

The former 24th overall pick was extended after starting only 27 games over three seasons and earning zero Pro Bowl berths. He was terrible in his first offseason and inactive for every game of his first year. In subsequent seasons, he had a myriad of injuries but Arizona still picked up his fifth-year option for 2019. Last month, he signed his big contract after he started 16 games in a season for the first time in his career. He had one holding call but 12 sacks allowed in those three years from 2016-2018.

Donovan Smith (Tampa Bay Buccaneers)
Three years, $41.25 million ($27 million guaranteed)

Another former second-round pick with zero Pro Bowls like Dawkins, Smith started every game for four years in Tampa and just before he hit free agency, signed his deal. His numbers look worse than Humphries and Dawkins, but part of that is also associated with the QB play behind him. He had 16 holding penalties and 16.5 sacks allowed in four years, and average of eight negative plays per year.

Jake Matthews (Atlanta Falcons)
Five years, $72.5 million
($14.5 million AAV)

Taylor Lewan (Atlanta Falcons)
Five years, $80 million
($16 million AAV)

Dawkins and the rest of the players on this list don’t really compare to the top-paid tackles in the league. Matthews is a former sixth overall pick with a Pro Bowl on his resume. Lewan was picked 11 overall and made three straight Pro Bowls before signing the richest contract for an OT. He was also part of the NFL’s Top 100 Players lists in 2017 and 2018.

Contract projection

Humphries actually makes more than Matthews in terms of average annual value. Matthews at $14.5 million might be the benchmark for a deal and it’s between the Humphries and Smith contracts. I go slightly higher than all of them.

Most of the deals have two years of guaranteed money plus the guaranteed signing bonus, which approaches $30 million total. We are a little under that because his first-year salary is so low as it’s his rookie salary. The 30% rule is going to mean a slightly different structure with the roster bonus rather than signing bonus for Dawkins (or that they wait until next offseason when he becomes a free agent).

Three-year extension
$44 million
($24.985 million guaranteed)

My palms are sweating just typing it: Dion Dawkins will be the third-highest-paid left tackle in the NFL in terms of average annual value of his new money. (First is Lewan at $16 million per year. Nate Solder is second at $15.5 million, but he signed his contract on the open market in a year when he was by far the prize of the class.)

He gets $25 million over the first two years of the deal, which gives him incentive to sign the deal before he tests the free agency market.

The hefty 2020 roster bonus is designed to up the compensation in the Final League Year of the CBA (2020) in order to set a solid base line of “Salary” for the 30% rule.

His guaranteed money is all in the first two years of the deal: $8 million signing bonus, $7 million roster bonus in 2020, his 2020 base salary from his rookie deal of $985,441, a $1 million roster bonus in 2021, and his $8 million salary for next year.

The Bills have shown a propensity to build in $100,000 workout bonuses into every offseason of veteran contracts, so I worked them in here.


Pro-rated rookie signing bonus: $295,589
New signing bonus pro-ration: $2 million
Workout bonus: $50,000
Roster bonus: $7 million (guaranteed)
Base salary: $985,441 (now guaranteed)

2020 “30% rule” actual compensation: $8,035,441 (roster bonus+salary+workout bonus)

Cap hit: $10,331,030


Signing bonus: $2 million
Roster bonus: $1 million (guaranteed)
Workout bonus: $100,000
Salary: $8 million (guaranteed)

2021 “30% rule” max compensation: $10.446 million
2021 “30% rule” actual compensation: $9.1 million (roster bonus+salary+workout bonus)

Cap hit: $11.1 million


Signing bonus: $2 million
Roster bonus: $500,000
Workout bonus: $100,000
Salary: $8.7 million

2022 “30% rule” max compensation: $11.83 million
2022 “30% rule” actual compensation: $9.3 million (roster bonus+salary+workout bonus)

Cap hit: $11.3 million
Dead cap if cut: $4 million
Cap savings if cut: $7.3 million


Signing bonus: $2 million
Roster bonus: $1 million
Workout bonus: $100,000
Salary: $9.5 million

2023 “30% rule” max compensation: $12.09 million
2023 “30% rule” actual compensation: $10.6 million (roster bonus+salary+workout bonus)

Cap hit: $12.6 million
Dead cap if cut: $2 million
Cap savings if cut: $10.6 million