4 free agents in Browns range after cap surge

After the salary cap hike, these four free agents are suddenly in range for the Cleveland Browns in 2024

Jordyn Brooks
Jordyn Brooks / Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
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1. Austin Ekeler, RB, Los Angeles Chargers

Nick Chubb has been an absolute wrecking ball for the Browns when he's healthy. He has 6,511 yards rushing with 48 touchdowns while averaging 5.3 yards per attempt. We all knew how much he meant to this offense even before he suffered a knee injury in 2023 but seeing how much the running game struggled without him was a reminder of his greatness.

Heading into 2024, there have been a lot of rumors that Cleveland could elect to move on from No. 24. Doing so would save the Browns roughly $12 million but they would then have a massive hole on the depth chart. Instead, it seems more likely they give Chubb a new deal that has similar guarantees spread out over the next three years with a lot of incentives added.

Doing this would keep Chubb in town but the Browns need someone who can fill in just in case his knee becomes a problem in the future. There's also a chance he's not ready by Week 1 — and when he does return, it would be wise to ease him in rather than start handing him the ball 20 times per game right away.

To accomplish this, Cleveland could look to the draft or maybe a mid-level back in free agency such as Zack Moss or Clyde Edwards-Helaire. Or they could use the extra cap space to make a huge splash with Austin Ekeler.

A seven-year pro, Ekeler has never topped 1,000 yards as a runner but he has 4,355 yards and 39 touchdowns while averaging 4.4 yards per attempt. He did see his numbers drop some in 2023 with just 3.5 yards per rush but he still proved he can be dangerous in open space.

Ekeler is also an excellent pass-catcher out of the backfield. He had 92 receptions for 993 yards with eight touchdowns in 2019 and then in 2022, he added 107 catches for 722 yards and five touchdowns. For his career, he has 440 catches for 3,884 yards and 30 touchdowns.

The Browns are likely to say goodbye to Kareem Hunt, who was also a solid receiver out of the backfield. Replacing him with Ekeler would be an upgrade and would allow them to have a one-two punch similar to what we saw in 2020 with Chubb and Hunt.

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