Browns: Future coach Chris Hubbard needs to yield his roster spot

Dec 2, 2018; Houston, TX, USA; Cleveland Browns offensive tackle Chris Hubbard (74) looks on during the game against the Houston Texans at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 2, 2018; Houston, TX, USA; Cleveland Browns offensive tackle Chris Hubbard (74) looks on during the game against the Houston Texans at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports /

Chris Hubbard is the spiritual ‘glue’ of the Browns offensive line, but does that mean he shouldn’t be given his release and offered a spot on the practice squad?

All reports on Chris Hubbard say that he is a 100 percent effort guy, a football lifer, and a potential head coach. Also that he needs to be retained in the Cleveland Browns organization.

However, at age 31 and after a dislocated elbow, triceps injury, and knee injury last year and other assorted accumulated injuries in the trenches in his career, he has yet to play a single down for the Browns this season. So what’s the point of keeping him on the 53-man roster? There are young players on the practice squad who have real potential and they need to be protected lest they become Cincinnati Bengals or something worse.

If Cleveland cut Hubbard, he would be free to sign with another club at the NFL minimum salary if he wants to. He spent most of his career with the Steelers who likewise hold him in high regard personally but a rebuilding team is not going to invest in a veteran who doesn’t play. No, in all likelihood the Browns will be able to add him to the practice squad. His pride might sting a little, but this is a business decision, and everyone should understand that.

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The Browns want to keep Chris Hubbard on staff. He has played all five offensive line positions and has also been the tackle-eligible tight end. They say that with some linemen it takes a few weeks to successfully transition from guard to tackle or from the left side to the right side.

However, the scuttlebutt about Hubbard is that he immediately knows every assignment for every position on the line and can switch in the middle of the game flawlessly. He just has an incredible football mind. He has a future in coaching, and he may even be a head coach someday. He’s a clubhouse leader who commands great respect in the Browns locker room. He is the coach on the field, except for one thing: he is not on the field.

He has not taken a single snap this season. When Jack Conklin or Wyatt Teller weren’t available, it was younger players like James Hudson III, Hjalte Froholdt, and Michael Dunn who responded to the call rather than the elder statesman, Hubbard. Game after game after game, Hubbard has been inactive.

If Hubbard isn’t healthy but might be healthy for the playoffs, then place him on IR now and get him back. If his situation is chronic and he’s not going to be better than the younger guys, then he needs to go on the practice squad and yield his roster spot so that one of the younger players can be protected from poaching by the rest of the NFL.

It’s unlikely that anyone will sign Hubbard away. But even if they do, so what? The Browns weren’t planning on using him anyway.

Yet he may be valuable as much for his coaching ability as his playing ability at this point. Everything we know about him says that he’s coaching material, so don’t let the man out of the building when the season is over. He can coach any position, not just the offensive line.

Roster spots are worth their weight in gold. Cleveland needs that spot to protect one of their young players. This corner’s nominee is center/guard Brock Hoffman, who was outstanding in the preseason. It will be interesting to see how he develops after a year in Bill Callahan’s system.

In fact, the Bengals were foolish not to pick him off because they cannot protect Joe Burrow and need offensive line help. However, the Browns also have return man Chester Rodgers who has been elevated from the reserve squad thus far and needs a permanent roster spot if they want to keep him, plus linebacker Dakota Allen, who separated a few running backs from their shoes in the preseason.

These players make more sense than Hubbard right now, unless they really believe Hubbard is going to suddenly return to health and become the same player he was two or three years ago. However, all the signs point to Hubbard not being fully healthy, so they may as well either place him on IR or keep him on the practice squad and protect one of the current practice squad players by promoting one to the 53-man roster.