With the latest updates on Nick Chubb's surgery, it isn't even clear if he'll be ready to go for Week 1 of the 2024 NFL season. And considering 2024 is also the last year on his contract, we may very well be looking at the end of Chubb's tenure as the workhorse in the Browns backfield.
But with Deshaun Watson struggling, this is clearly still an offense that needs to be built around an elite running back.
Luckily for the Browns, the 2024 free agent running back class is set to be one of the best ever. That means there will not only be tons of backs to choose from, but that they won't be as expensive as usual since the market will be so flooded.
Here are the top five upcoming free agent running backs that the Browns can target to be long-term replacements Chubb.
Top 5 2024 Free Agent Running Backs to Replace Nick Chubb
5. Austin Ekeler
Austin Ekeler has never had a 1,000-yard rushing season, and that seems to bring on a real lack of respect from fans and NFL media. But make no mistake about it, he’s one of the best running backs in the NFL.
Ekeler led the entire NFL in touchdowns in both 2021 and 2022. He’s had 1,500-plus yards from scrimmage in three of the last four seasons. And yet he’s never even made the Pro Bowl.
Since breaking out in 2019, Ekeler has the sixth-most yards from scrimmage for any NFL player. And among those five players ahead of him, only three have averaged more yards per game than Ekeler's 97.4.
Ekeler would bring a different element to this offense. While Chubb is a capable receiver, he's obviously an old-school, run-first type of back.
Ekeler can get it done on the ground for sure (he leads the NFL with 26 rushing touchdowns since 2001), but his receiving chops are what make him really special. That could be an interesting wrinkle that also benefits Watson as he tries to find his groove to lead this offense long-term.