Cleveland Browns now have an idea of what an extension for Nick Chubb would cost.
The Cleveland Browns have built a stellar offense over the past couple of seasons, with most of the attention going towards the talents of Baker Mayfield, Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry. However, it is the quiet running back Nick Chubb who has become the bell cow of the unit.
Chubb may not grab the headlines, but he is the most consistent and one of the most impactful players on the Browns roster. After a breakout season during his rookie year, Chubb burst onto the scene in league-wide circles after his phenomenal performance in 2019.
After rushing for 996 yards and eight touchdowns with an average of 5.2 yards per carry during his rookie season, Chubb finished with 1,494 yards and eight touchdowns with an average of 5.0 yards per carry during his sophomore season in the NFL in 2019.
Chubb’s 1,494 yards trailed only Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry for the rushing title last season, and the expectation is the two running backs will battle for the title again in 2020. The two players competing with each other will also have an effect off the field.
Both players were set to enter free agency in the near future, with Henry being the first. Henry was set to be a free agent this offseason, but the Titans placed the franchise tag on the 26-year-old running back to keep him under contract until 2021. However, the Titans agreed to an extension with Henry on Wednesday prior to the 4 p.m. deadline to sign franchise tagged players to extensions.
After having a career year in 2019, Henry agreed to a four-year extension with the Titans worth $50 million, with $25.5 million guaranteed, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport. With running backs losing value across the league, Henry did well for himself to land a second contract worth an average of $12.5 million per year. Henry’s deal will put him fourth in per-year salary among running backs in the NFL, according to OverTheCap.com.
Henry’s deal will likely set the framework for an extension for Chubb, who will not be a free agent until after the 2021 season, but the Browns can sign him to an extension next offseason. Since both players were the top running backs in 2019 and will likely be at the top of the rushing charts again in 2020, Chubb’s agents will likely use Henry’s deal to start negotiations.
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However, Chubb’s representation may look to do better than Henry in negotiations, considering Chubb has had a much better start to his career. After being drafted in 2016, Henry rushed for 1,234 yards and 10 touchdowns with an average of 4.3 yards per carry his first two seasons. He has become a top back in the league after his performances in 2018 and 2019, but he did not have the start to his career like Chubb.
In his first two seasons, Chubb has rushed for a combined 2,490 yards and 16 touchdowns with an average of 5.1 yards per carry. If Chubb could have another stellar season in 2020, it would make sense if he would want a bigger deal than Henry.
Chubb signing an extension with Cleveland still seems unlikely.
Although Chubb has quickly established himself as one of the top running backs in the NFL, it is difficult to view Chubb as a part of Cleveland’s long-term future. Running backs have lost value in the NFL, especially with teams who make heavy use of analytics.
Running back has been viewed as a position that can be utilized with cheaper, young players with less miles on their legs. Generally, running backs who sign a second contract in the NFL do not match the worth of a second deal as they battle with wear and tear and injuries, causing them to slow down during the life of their second deal.
Running backs who have recently signed extensions (Todd Gurley, David Johnson, Le’Veon Bell) have shown that even the best running backs in the NFL can have their performances fall off a cliff right after signing new deals. It has been a consistent trend, and it will become a case study for players like Henry, Christian McCaffrey and Melvin Gordon.
As the Browns will have to deal with tighter cap space in the next couple of seasons due to potential extensions for Mayfield, Myles Garrett and Denzel Ward, as well as the large contracts of Beckham, Landry, and Austin Hooper, the Browns may choose to go the cheaper direction of using young running backs with less wear on their legs instead of paying top-dollar for a proven veteran like Chubb.
Chubb has proven he can be a difference maker in the NFL and is an explosive play-maker, but he may play himself out of Cleveland. It would not be surprising if Chubb’s performance will cause his representation to ask for an extension that matches the average salary of Henry, which could prove to be difficult for the Browns to fit into their future salary cap.
Cleveland’s front office has been utilizing analytics for their decision-making, so Chubb will have to combat with the low value for running backs. Based on the trend of analytics, it seems incredibly unlikely the Browns would be willing to sign Chubb to a deal similar to Henry.
What seems more likely is the Browns will let Chubb play out his rookie deal and wait to make a decision about a new deal for Chubb until after the 2021 season. And if Chubb plays the way he has his first two years in the NFL, the Browns would let Chubb test the free agent waters instead of paying over $12 million a year for a running back.
Chubb may be the best player on Cleveland’s offense, but imagining him signing an extension in Cleveland does not seem likely. Especially with the extensions signed by McCaffrey and Henry this offseason, Chubb may not be in Cleveland after the 2021 season with running backs still signing large second contracts.