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Will Nick Chubb get Another Contract in Cleveland?

Cleveland Browns running back Nick Chubb is poised for a big season in 2020. He will be looking for a contract extension but will GM Andrew Berry pay up?

Cleveland Browns running back Nick Chubb is arguably one of the best running backs in football and will get a nice payday rather here in Cleveland or from another franchise. Chubb finished second in the NFL last season in rushing yards just shy of 1500 yards (1494), and only behind Titans RB Derrick Henry (1540 yds). This is a significant production increase to his rookie year where he fell four yards short of a 1000-yd season. In recent history, giving running backs big contracts had negative returns and paying out impacts the franchises salary cap. But, with AFC North rival Cincinnati Bengals signing Joe Mixon to a contract extension, Nick Chubb will definitely be looking for a new contract.

Chubb was drafted at the top of second round in the 2018 NFL Draft and has a very team-friendly contract for his level of production. Not being a first round selection it removes GM Andrew Berry’s ability to exercise a team-option on his current contract. Players those options can be exercised on include QB Baker Mayfield and CB Denzel Ward. Yet, to take advantage of a smaller salary cap increase due to impacts of the pandemic, signing your franchise quarterback and lockdown corner are likely higher on Andrew Berry’s priority list.

Chubb is a player that is obviously deserving of a second contract based on his potential alone. Cleveland Browns GM Andrew Berry will have to shell out some cash to retain his young star in the making. But it is a perplexing position to be in because paying running backs in recent memory has not yielded good dividends. Atlanta Falcons RB Todd Gurley is a prime candidate of a running back contract gone wrong and the Los Angeles Rams paid for it until his eventual release this offseason.

Contract talks always seem to find themselves around running backs during training camp. The latest media headline is New Orleans Saints RB Alvin Kamara having unexcused absences from training camp in search of a new contract. Kamara is reportedly looking for Christian McCaffery money and that is a high asking price. With the Bengals extending Joe Mixon to a 4-year, $48 million contract, it provides a better baseline for Nick Chubb.

Chubb’s cap hit this season is really small at only $1.845 million for 2020. His cash this season is less than number two RB Kareem Hunt, playing on a second-round tender, which he signed this offseason. The rookie contract for Nick Chubb has only $5.896 million guaranteed (19 RBs) which is considered salary cap friendly. A market level contract is likely near top five in annual average value, and the guaranteed money could sway how quickly this deal gets done.

In his first season as the Cleveland Browns general manager, Andrew Berry has given a framework of how he likes to setup his contracts. His two big offseason free agent signings included OT Jack Conklin and TE Austin Hooper, both of which had front loaded contracts with delayed guarantees. Berry has maneuvered the salary cap so that he has a team-friendly out and long term cap flexibility. This framework helped project a contract which should satisfy Nick Chubb and still provide long term cap flexibility.

Two important running back contracts to analyze in order to accurately assess a market level deal are Joe Mixon and Derrick Henry. Both running backs signed contract extensions this offseason and the money seems to align where Nick Chubb should be. Mixon recently signed a four year extension, as did Henry for a value of $50 million. There guaranteed money totals have a more pronounced difference, with Henry having $25.5 million in guarantees compared to Mixon’s $19.3 million. The guaranteed money for Nick Chubb will likely have to surpass Derrick Henry even considering a lesser salary cap increase next year.

The projected contract extension for Nick Chubb would be a 4-year, $51.4 million contract. This deal would make Chubb the fifth highest paid running back in the NFL based on annual average value, at $12.85 million per year. Yet, on the same token this number just represents the total cash value based on the length of the contract. The guaranteed money is more important for the players’ perspective especially given the short shelf life of the running back position in the NFL.

In terms of guaranteed money Nick Chubb will likely land in the Top-10 for running backs. Understanding that Andrew Berry gave Austin Hooper $23 million guaranteed, Chubb’s contract should topple Hooper’s guarantee total. Berry should offer him $24.75 million guaranteed which would be seventh highest among running backs.

Andrew Berry would likely write the contract language similar to Hooper and Jack Conklin, by breaking down the guarantees through split criteria. Chubb’s guarantees could be within his signing bonus, 2021 salary and 2022 salary. Also considering the framework Berry used in other contracts it is important he has a team friendly option. Setting up a potential out in 2023 with less than $6 million in dead money would give the Browns flexibility to move-on rather via trade or release.

Providing a team-friendly out would help the franchise extend other players and avoid cap restrictions similar to Todd Gurley with the Los Angeles Rams. An additional positive for the Cleveland Browns is having an ideal contract average cap percentage, which would be around 5.58%. The Browns currently allocate large portions of the overall cap percentage to wide receivers and the defense line. Negotiating to an average cap percentage under 6% would be outstanding value, for a player that is a foundational piece to the offensive scheme.

Nick Chubb has the tools to have another great season in 2020, under HC Kevin Stefanksi’s wide zone run scheme. Also including an improved offensive line, not even Kareem Hunt’s presence should prevent Chubb from having another 1000-yd season. If Chubb is able to stay healthy and perform well, he can play himself into a new contract. GM Andrew Berry has a great young core on his roster to build upon and he has numerous players likely in contract talk’s next offseason. Nick Chubb is a foundational talent and deserves a second contract even if Kareem Hunt may come at cheaper value if he were to resign.