The Cleveland Browns will focus on star running back Nick Chubb more in 2020 under Kevin Stefanski, but a big new deal is still in the air.
The world of the NFL is experiencing a renaissance of the running back position. Slowly but surely, talents of the ultra-talented variety are being valued by their teams unlike many over the last decade. While it’s true that finding a “good” running back isn’t hard (hello Denver Broncos post-Terrell Davis), finding a game-changing one is. So when you hear the likes of Christian McCaffery getting paid as he did, it makes sense. He’s not just a stud running back, but he’s arguably a top-15 or top-10 receiver as well. So is fellow dynamo Saquon Barkley. Both men have or will be paid well for their unique skillsets as both a runner and pass-catcher. For the Cleveland Browns Nick Chubb to warrant a deal like McCaffery’s, he’ll need to show the same versatility.
Now let’s be clear here, Chubb is arguably the best between the tackles runner in the game. Not Barkley, not McCaffery, not anyone in the league can say they are better of a pure runner as Chubb is. Derrick Henry can make a case for being as good as Chubb is but that’s a shortlist. To be on that big-money, McCaffery salary level, you need to be a duel threat. A legitimate duel threat. You need to line up in the slot and play as effectively there as you do in the backfield.
That’s hyperbole, obviously, as even McCaffery didn’t line up in the slot (at least all that often), but that’s the best way to describe one’s skills in the modern NFL. If you can’t be a team’s No. 2 or No. 3 wide receiver, even out of the backfield, you aren’t someone a team should heavily invest in. Unlike McCaffery or Barkley, Chubb isn’t a big threat in the passing game.
In two years, Barkley already has 1,100+ yards out of the backfield. It would’ve been more had he not hurt his ankle. In three years, McCaffery already has 2,500 yards out of the backfield. For proper context, he’s only 614 yards shy of Jarvis Landry in the same span; or 200 yards per season for more context.
For Chubb to warrant a huge deal, he needs to be versatile enough to warrant it. McCaffery’s deal is the apex of contracts for a running back. He’ll make anywhere from $8 million to $12 million in his yearly salary alone during the length of the deal. He’ll have another $24 million dolled out across a few years as part of his signing bonus.
Meaning most years he’ll be around the $16 million mark. As McCaffery is both the leading rusher and second-leading receiver on his team that’s a discount. So is Chubb worth $16 million a year? Frankly, no. Not really.
Many look at the deal that LeVeon Bell got as him being severely overpaid, even before he debuted as a member of the New York Jets. He is/was a duel threat. Even Ezekiel Elliot’s deal isn’t a good one, and Elliot is capable of going for 1,000 rushing yards and 500 receiving yards every year.
Chubb isn’t in that category as a receiver. So what’s a fair number? Anything between $8 to $10 million a year may be where Chubb should land as far as a “fair” deal is concerned. If he can carry a team as Henry can, then you pay him the same deal the Tennessee Titans gave Henry. If he can’t but can be a valuable piece to help the offense, you give him the same deal the Broncos gave Melvin Gordon.
If Chubb goes 1,000/1,000 in year three, throw out everything said in this article and give him McCaffery money. Until that day comes, however, in order to still afford all of the good young talents, evaluating Chubb fairly is the only way to ensure you don’t lose out on others the team needs.