Browns predicted to do the unexpected with Nick Chubb…

Heading into the 2024 season, the Cleveland Browns face a crucial decision regarding the future of star running back Nick Chubb, who currently carries a substantial $15.8 million cap hit. Chubb’s undeniable value to the team, when healthy, is tempered by the fact that he is recovering from a significant knee injury that necessitated two separate surgeries, a torn ACL and MCL, sustained in Week 2 of the previous season.

Amidst speculation that Chubb might not be ready for Week 1 of the upcoming campaign, the possibility of requesting him to accept a pay cut has been raised by some NFL experts. However, ESPN Insider Aaron Schatz presents a counterintuitive prediction, suggesting that the Browns might opt for a contract extension instead. Schatz acknowledges that this move appears contrary to the team’s analytical strategy but emphasizes that Chubb stands out as one of the few running backs whose value aligns with advanced analytics.

In an ESPN Insider article, Schatz predicts, “Despite questions about his return from a knee injury, the Browns will sign Chubb to an extension, which will allow them to keep him past the 2024 season, while also lowering his cap charge to help the Browns get under the number.” Schatz defends this potential surprising move by highlighting Chubb’s consistent excellence in advanced metrics such as the NFL Next Gen Stats rushing yards over expectation, where he leads the NFL since 2021 with 597 yards.

While extending Chubb’s contract poses inherent risks, it could be a strategic financial maneuver for the Browns, who currently find themselves nearly $20 million over the salary cap. Addressing this cap issue is imperative for the team to engage in free agency and sign their draft picks. By adding a few years to Chubb’s deal, the Browns may create an opportunity to save $7-8 million, easing their cap situation.

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However, the gamble in extending Chubb lies in the fact that this is the second time he has suffered a serious knee injury, with the previous occurrence dating back to his college years in 2015. Despite successfully bouncing back from the earlier injury, the context is different, as Chubb is now nine years older.

Ultimately, the decision to extend Chubb’s contract may align with General Manager Andrew Berry’s expressed desire to see Chubb continue as the team’s primary ball carrier. The key consideration, however, remains prioritizing Chubb’s recovery and not rushing him back to the field. The contract negotiations, while significant, are under the purview of a front office that has demonstrated adeptness in executing strategic decisions.

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