Cleveland Browns right tackle Chris Hubbard under fire

CLEVELAND, OH - NOVEMBER 11: Chris Hubbard #74 of the Cleveland Browns celebrates defeating Atlanta Falcons at FirstEnergy Stadium on November 11, 2018 in Cleveland, Ohio. The Browns won 28 to 16. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - NOVEMBER 11: Chris Hubbard #74 of the Cleveland Browns celebrates defeating Atlanta Falcons at FirstEnergy Stadium on November 11, 2018 in Cleveland, Ohio. The Browns won 28 to 16. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images) /

The contract Chris Hubbard signed with the Cleveland Browns has not been very popular and is again coming under fire

Lineman Chris Hubbard’s contract has been rightly criticized in the national media, but maybe the Cleveland Browns are at fault because they have not found his best position.  Writing in Bleacher Report, Kristopher Knox identified the world contract on each NFL roster and identified Hubbard’s as the worst of the Browns.

Originally when DPD editor Randy Gurzi asked for an article responding to Knox’s opinion, this article was going to add fuel to that fire. But after carrying out some additional research on Hubbard’s history, this analyst believes that the Browns are playing him out of position, and they need to move him to right guard instead of right tackle.

Knox is certainly correct that the contract was way too large — to be specific, $36.5 million over five years, with $15.2 million guaranteed — and the Browns have established that they are not getting the production that they want. Overall, Pro Football Focus (subscription required) ranks him 70th among offensive tackles. and particularly ranks him as particularly poor in run blocking.   Given that there are 64 nominal starters in the NFL, a rank of 70th implies that he should probably not be a starter.

So why not find out if he can play guard?

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Signing Hubbard was not a random John Dorsey whim.  Hubbard had decent success in Pittsburgh playing for offensive coordinator Todd Haley who had become the Browns OC in 2018. Hubbard’s play in Pittsburgh was widely praised by his teammates, and in fact, he was called the “most complete player in the league” by teammate Alejandro Villanueva.

Hubbard once logged snaps for the Steelers in four positions in one game:  tight end,  left tackle, right tackle, and special teams.  On other occasions, he also played center and guard.

Joe Rutter of further quotes Villanueva as follows:

"“The most impressive thing about him is he can carry through a lot of skill through each position. He’s a very knowledgeable player. He sees every block, and he’s very fundamental.”"

Let us take Villanueva at his word, and agree that Hubbard must be smart, hard-nosed and very versatile. But what is this guy’s best position?  Looking at his combine results, he is a bit undersized for a right tackle, at 6-foot-4 and 295 Lbs.

Usually, the right tackle is built like an Abrams tank, and he specializes in pancake blocks of defensive ends and linebackers. Marcus Gilbert, the guy that Hubbard substituted for in Pittsburgh, was 6-foot-6 and 330 lbs. The reason why Hubbard had the most snaps at right tackle was that the starting right tackle got hurt. It doesn’t mean that that is Hubbard’s position.

So, the Browns are starting one of the smallest right tackles in the league and are having trouble getting good run blocking from this position. That should not be too shocking. According to Pro Football Focus, Hubbard has committed six penalties and allowed three sacks this season.

The Browns want to get out of that contract, which is way too much money for an under-performing tackle. They still will be stuck for $2.4 million in 2020,  for contract guarantees that still remain, but they save $4.9 million if they jettison him next year.

But the biggest stat is that Hubbard has missed zero snaps in a year and a half as a Brown.  That kind of effort and intestinal fortitude deserves notice.  Players like that do not grow on trees, even though Browns fans have become kind of accustomed to that after watching Joe Thomas never miss a snap in his career.

Nevertheless, to answer the question about why Hubbard will probably never be tried at guard, it probably will not happen because he is currently the only option at right tackle. The Browns have a nasty habit of acquiring guards and then hoping they can play tackle, and it never works.

This year the Browns have at various times prayed for a tackle to emerge from a group including Austin Corbett, Bryan Witzmann,  Eric Kush, Kendall Lamm, Justin McCray, and Wyatt Teller.

If they were to move Hubbard to right guard and install some unknown quantity at right tackle,  they would risk getting Baker Mayfield killed, and they simply cannot take that risk.

So whatever decision is made in the off-season, it will probably be based on zero game reps at guard for Hubbard. No doubt some other team will sign him at a lower price and move him inside, where he will be a much better performer. If so it will represent an organizational failure by the Browns who managed to first issue a $36.5 million dollar contract, and then not find out what they actually have.

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All we can say for sure is they have a tenacious player with zero missed snaps who is undersized to be a starting tackle.

We have no idea whether he can play guard.