The Cleveland Browns feature one of the most complete rosters in the NFL. But as they look to make a deep playoff run in 2021, roster questions loom on the horizon. Defensive centerpiece Myles Garrett got his money so he will be a Brown for the foreseeable future. Barring a disastrous season in 2021, quarterback Baker Mayfieldfigures to obtain a fairly lucrative contract extension soon. Denzel Ward is due for his first contract extension as well, and he is arguably the second most vital player on the defensive side of the ball for Cleveland. And then there is Nick Chubb, and the question of what teams should do with star running backs who are seeking a second contract. Here is a breakdown of Nick Chubb’s contract situation and what the Browns should do.
Nick Chubb’s Contract To Expire After 2021 Season, Here’s How the Team Should Operate
Recent History of Second Contracts for Running Backs
Nick Chubb, whose current contract will end after the 2021 season, is a superstar of a running back and serves as the Browns closer in tight games. In the fourth quarters of games last season, he averaged nearly 10 yards per touch and essentially singlehandedly put away teams like the Philadelphia Eagles and Houston Texans in must-win games. There is an argument to be made for him as Cleveland’s best and most important offensive player, so it should be a no-brainer to throw a boatload of money at him.
However, it is not that simple.
A recurring theme in today’s NFL is running backs excelling throughout their rookie contracts, signing extensions, and then either fighting injury or dropping off a cliff production-wise during their second contract. The most current example of this is Ezekiel Elliott. Elliott was widely considered to be a top-three back throughout his rookie deal after the Dallas Cowboys drafted him fourth overall in 2016. He signed a massive six-year, $90 million contract extension with over $50 million guaranteed, and promptly fell apart last season. Zeke averaged just 65 yards per game in 2020, a far cry from his career mark of almost 90. He lost explosiveness, looked disinterested at times, and led the NFL running backs in lost fumbles.
Todd Gurley and DeMarco Murray also serve as cautionary tales against paying running backs large sums of money. A lot of Browns writers and fans are rightfully wary of throwing cash at Chubb. However, it does seem as though a team-friendly deal may be a possibility for the Browns and Chubb.
Chubb Is a Different Animal
Obviously, Mayfield and Ward are high-priority extensions that Cleveland needs to get done. Wyatt Teller may be on his way out of Cleveland after this season if another team offers him a record-breaking contract, which may be the case. But Nick Chubb is vital to the Browns success. Without him, Cleveland probably would not have made the playoffs in 2020.
A four-year, $40-48 million deal is reasonable for Chubb. If he’s unwilling to take less than $50 million, then it may be in Cleveland’s best interest to walk away. But if retaining him for $10-12 per year million is on the table, the Browns must re-sign him. The Browns could sweeten the pot a bit by front-loading the guaranteed money on his contract, which could be a win-win for both the player and team. With Kareem Huntstill around, Chubb won’t need to carry the ball 25 times per game either. This will allow him to stay fresh during games and throughout the season.
Cleveland has a rare opportunity to retain a premier running back and the heart and soul of its offense while at the same time keeping him fresh with a brilliant tandem.
If Nick Chubb is willing to sign a reasonable extension it is certainly in Andrew Berry’s and the Browns best interest to get the deal done.