Nick Chubb Contract: What Happens if He Can't Play in 2024?

Chubb's $15 million salary in 2024 could put the Browns in a very tough spot.

Nick Chubb's contract could put the Browns in a very difficult spot in 2024.
Nick Chubb's contract could put the Browns in a very difficult spot in 2024. / Justin K. Aller/GettyImages
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After the latest news on Nick Chubb's upcoming knee surgery, it sounds like the Cleveland Browns could find themselves in a serious bind.

Chubb's knee is an absolute mess that will require multiple surgeries, and this is his second time destroying the same knee. If anyone can make a miraculous recovery it's Chubb, but the Browns also need to start planning for the "what if we don't get a miracle?" potential.

And that means taking a long hard look at Chubb's contract.

How Does Nick Chubb's Contract Work on IR?

First off, there's no risk of Chubb being released with his injury during the 2023 season. You can't cut an injured player until they're cleared, and there's only a five-day window after placing someone on IR to reach a special injury settlement. Cleveland would also take on over $14 million in dead money and not save any salary space in cutting Chubb.

And of course, those are just the technical reasons why he's not getting cut. It's also just way too early in the process to even consider a move like that. There's no need to rush it, and there may well be riots in the streets by Browns fans if the team releases Chubb.

But what if we fast forward to next summer and it still doesn't look like Chubb will be ready for Week 1? Things become a lot different in 2024.

The 2024 season is the final year on Chubb's contract, and there suddenly becomes a lot more salary cap-related reasons to consider moving on early. Releasing him would only carry $4 million in dead money (cap space that gets tied up even though a player is gone from the roster) while freeing up $11.8 million.

But this would still be a bit of a sticky scenario with a couple possibilities.

If Chubb is still not cleared from the injury, we still can't release him. The only option there would be to come to an injury settlement within five days of placing him on IR for the 2024 season.

If he's medically cleared and is miraculoulsy back to full speed, then obviously we don't have any reason to cut him.

But what about the hairiest situation? What if he's cleared to play, but isn't looking like a $15 million running back any more?

At that point, cutting him starts to make a lot of sense. Deshaun Watson's contract puts the Browns in a tough spot under the 2024 salary cap (it's why we've restructured so many contracts over the last few months), and if we have to replace Chubb with an expensive free agent then money becomes even tighter.

Cutting Chubb would be emotionally difficult, would look callous and would surely sour Andrew Berry's relationship with the Cleveland fan base. But $11 million in savings is nothing to scoff at. As we've seen time and time again, at the end of the day the NFL is a business. Everyone in the Browns organization wishes Chubb the best, but they also won't hesitate to make the move that's needed if they think that $11 million will help the team more elsewhere.

So here are the key points to keep in mind about the possible scenarios:

  • In 2023: Chubb could technically part from the Browns on an injury settlement within five days of being placed on the IR, but that won't happen
  • In 2023: Chubb can not be released until he is medically cleared from his injury
  • In 2024: Chubb enters the final season of his contract
  • In 2024: Chubb still can not be released until he is medically cleared from his injury
  • In 2024: Chubb could be released on an injury settlement within five days of being placed on IR for the year. This would create $11 million in savings for the Browns
  • In 2024: If Chubb is medically cleared but not looking explosive at practice, the Browns could release him and save $11 million against the salary cap
  • In 2024: Chubb could be back at full speed, and in this case the Browns obviously would not want to cut him

I hate that this is even a situation we have to think about right now, and obviously the top priority is that we wish Chubb a speedy and full recovery.