It seems contract extensions for key Browns players have become a local and national media obsession. Running back Kareem Hunt recently responded to a question about fellow Browns running back Nick Chubb’s possible contract extension by saying, “Pay that man. He’s a freak of nature,” Hunt said at his youth football camp, via Zac Jackson of TheAthletic.com. “He’s like a brother to me … hope we can play together for a long time.” It was reported on September 8, 2020, that Hunt signed a two-year extension through 2022. At the time it was considered a long shot that the Browns would re-sign Chubb. I’ve always maintained the Browns could sign both. Here’s a link to an article I wrote for the website in June of 2020 explaining why and how the Browns could sign both, https://clesportstalk.com/a-good-problem-to-have/.
I wrote, “So again the question is, can the Browns afford to sign both going into the 2021 season? Yes, they can. The team could offer Hunt a two-year deal worth about $11 million, based on the fact that Hunt is one more off the field incident from being suspended for a year. The Browns have not only given him a second chance but a third chance as well. As for Chubb, the Browns can offer him a three-year deal worth around $35 to $40 million.” Hunt’s two-year extension is worth $13.5 million which includes $8.5 million in guaranteed money. I had projected a two-year deal worth $11 million, so I was in the ballpark. As for Chubb, the three-year deal worth $35 to $40 million I projected would put him in the top ten for highest-paid running backs at about $11.7 to $13.3 million per year. For reference, Carolina’s Christian McCaffery is the highest-paid RB at $16 million per year and Derick Henry, 2000 yard rusher, signed a new contract last year for $12.5 million per year.
While the contract extensions for quarterback Baker Mayfield and Cornerback Denzel Ward have garnered more attention, neither becomes a free agent until 2023. Chubb is a free agent in 2022, so if the Browns want to have the best running back duo in the NFL for two more years, a contract extension is a must. Chubb is due to make $3.4 million in 2021 and Hunt is due to make $5 million in 2021 and $6.25 million in 2022. Taking those numbers into consideration, I could see the Browns signing Nick Chubb to a three-year, $39 million deal ( $13 million per year). This would put Chubb as the third highest-paid running back behind the Saints Alvin Kamara ($15 million per year) and ahead of the Vikings Dalvin Cook ($12.6 million per year).
But what about the salary cap?
I knew you were going to ask that question because everyone asks that question. The 2022 salary cap is set at a ceiling of $208.2 million. Currently, the Browns have $20.7 million in cap space and are projected to have $9.8 million in cap space in 2022. With rollover of unused 2021 salary cap, restructures and cuts, the Browns could have well over $30 million in cap space in 2022.
But what about the contract extensions for Mayfield and Ward?
I knew that would be the next question, it’s always the next question. Their extensions wouldn’t start till 2023 and because the new NFL $113 billion television deal also starts in 2023, the salary cap that year is expected to explode.
In my original article, “A Good Problem To Have.” I stated, “Keeping this running back tandem together is possible moving past the 2020 season, but will the Browns want to do this? It’s a great problem to have.”
It still is.