WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. – Nick Chubb established himself long ago as a special player, a stunning mix of speed, power and precision. A threat to score for the Browns every time he touches the football.
These days, Chubb is even more unusual among his peers.
He's well paid.
With a trend of NFL teams devaluing their position, Chubb and a few fellow star running backs Saquon Barkley, Derrick Henry and Christian McCaffrey — along with some young ones — took part in a Zoom call on Saturday night to discuss their options in a dwindling market for ball carriers.
“We're definitely in a tough situation,” said Chubb, who is under contract through 2024 but has no guaranteed money next season. “Next year it could be me.”
Normally reserved and sometimes painfully quiet in interviews, Chubb opened up to reporters following Cleveland's practice to discuss this growing trend of teams either underpaying or lowballing running backs.
This subject was near and dear to Chubb.
"There’s really nothing we can do,” he said Sunday following practice. “We’re kind of handcuffed with the situation. Our production hurts us the most. If we go out there and run for 2,000 yards with so many carries, the next year they’re going to say you’re probably worn down.
“That’s the biggest thing that I took from it (the call). It’s just tough. It hurts us just to go out there and do good. It hurts us at the end of the day.”
Unable to come to terms on a long-term contract from the New York Giants, Barkley threatened last week to sit out training camp in protest. The Giants offered the 26-year-old the $10 million franchise tender for running backs.
Josh Jacobs is in a similar situation with the Las Vegas Raiders and hasn't signed his tender after failing to get a new deal.
Chubb, who rushed for a career-high 1,525 yards last season with 12 touchdowns, feels fortunate. He signed a three-year, $36 million deal in 2021 with Cleveland — the last running back to secure more than $10 million per season.
The four-time Pro Bowler understands the business side of the game, but that doesn't offset seeing colleagues penalized.
“I got another year (under contract),” said Chubb, who has rushed for 6,341 yards in five seasons. “So I mean it’s easy for me to say it’s not a big deal, but next year it could be me in the same situation. But for right now, I do got one more year. I’m here. I’m all in. I’m ready to work with my guys.”
The Browns would expect nothing else.
Chubb is one of the team's unquestioned leaders, a throwback of sorts due to his business-first demeanor and an unparalleled work ethic.
Not only do the Browns value Chubb, they see him as perhaps their most valuable offensive player with perhaps an even larger role this season.
“Nick’s a huge part of our offense, obviously, handing it to him, throwing it to him,” said coach Kevin Stefanski. "He’s been adept at both where we go as you evolve, and maybe different run types for him. We have very good empirical data on what he’s good at, and it’s tried and true.
"I don’t know if there’s limits to him as a player. He’s a schematic fit, really, in anything you do.”
Chubb said his representatives have not approached the Browns about another contract extension.
General manager Andrew Berry acknowledged the NFL's evolution from a run-dominant sport to more passing has changed how teams allocate their finances. Chubb's production made it a no-brainer to sign him for multiple years.
“When we made our decision at running back, we felt like we had a superstar who embodied everything that we wanted within the organization,” he said. "So we didn’t overthink it. It’s Nick Chubb, right?
"And so for us it was a pretty straightforward decision because those difference-makers are hard to find.”
Before training camp, Chubb posted a video on social media of him squatting 600 pounds. With spotters flanking him on both sides, Chubb powered up the weights as the bar bent across his broad shoulders.
The image made Berry both proud of Chubb and nervous.
“He's a freak of nature,” Berry said.
NOTES: WR Amari Cooper left the field late in practice with an unspecified injury. Berry said Cooper had a “minor tweak” but provided no other details. Cooper underwent surgery to repair a core muscle in February. ... Rookie OT Dawand Jones sat out with an illness. He was on the field for Saturday's first workout at The Greenbrier Resort. ... LBs Sione Takitaki (knee) and Anthony Walker Jr. (quadriceps) took part in individual drills before doing condition work to the side during the team portions.