The Browns cleared their first big contractual hurdle ahead of them in the next 12 months with Nick Chubb's extension, and they aren't the only ones enjoying a bit of relief.
Chubb, the polar opposite of a loudmouth, largely kept quiet during the offseason when it came to questions regarding his contract and future in Cleveland. The 25-year-old went about his business as usual, preparing for another campaign as an essential part of the Browns' offense and saying the right things when asked about his future.
Then, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport broke the news of Chubb's extension Saturday, a three-year, $36.6 million extension that includes $20 million in guaranteed money and a $12 million signing bonus. Consider the problem solved.
"I am relieved it is behind us now," Chubb told reporters Monday. "Just coming out here ready to practice. I know all of that has been handled. It is taken care of. I am very happy where I am. I get to come out here and focus on getting better every day."
Chubb's new deal marries him to Cleveland through 2024, extending a partnership that has been mutually beneficial at a rate greater than could possibly be expected when the Browns spent the 35th overall pick on him in 2018.
Chubb had left Georgia not as its star bell cow, but as part of an explosive trio of running backs that helped the Bulldogs reach the College Football Playoff. He wasn't seen as the best back on his own team, with fellow Bulldog Sony Michel going ahead of him in the same class at 31st overall.
This came after Chubb suffered a torn ACL that derailed a career that once had him on track to be a high first-round pick. After completing a grueling rehab process, it ultimately turned out to be nothing more than a hurdle.
"Yeah, it has," Chubb said when asked if his NFL hopes and dreams came true following his knee injury. "I can say it has now, but back then, it was really blurry for me. I was not sure if I would how things would turn out, if I would ever be the same player or would I ever even play again.
"That is just something I hold onto in the back of my mind, knowing where I came from and knowing where I want to be. I can say through the help of friends, family and God I am here now in a blessed position."
Chubb has detonated such expectations, rushing for 3,557 yards and 28 touchdowns in 44 games (37 starts), good for an average of 5.2 yards per carry. He's an advanced-metrics monster, posting the highest single-season rushing yards gained over expectation per attempt mark in the Next Gen Stats era at +1.75 last season. He owns the two highest marks among qualifying backs since Next Gen began tracking the statistic in 2018.
Chubb has quickly become known for both his bruising rushing style that often sends defenders pinballing off of his torso, and his breakaway speed to finish off long touchdown runs. He's also the perfect complement to teammate Kareem Hunt, another explosive runner who was a budding superstar in Kansas City before off-field issues ended his time there and led him to his hometown Browns.
When Hunt arrived, many questioned how Cleveland would be able to dole out enough touches to satisfy both backs. Fans feared internal conflict.
Instead, Chubb and Hunt became best friends. When Chubb received his payday, Hunt knew precisely how to react.
"Kareem said, 'Wagyu steaks on me,'" Chubb said. "That is all he keeps saying. I know he is excited. I am excited to get out there and for me and him to get that going like we have been."
Chubb's extension is just the latest wise move made by general manager Andrew Berry, who managed to retain Hunt a year ago via an affordable two-year, $12 million extension. With Chubb and Hunt, the Browns have a pair of premier backs who will combine to account for less than $9 million in cap space in 2021. The number will increase when Chubb's extension takes effect, but for now, timely signings have positioned the Browns to carry an elite backfield at an affordable rate.
The Browns proved Kevin Stefanski's zone-dependent scheme was an ideal fit for their personnel in 2020, when Cleveland finished third in rushing yards per game and 16th in total offense. They'll be able to build on this success for the next two years with both Chubb and Hunt under contract.
Cleveland still has to figure out how they'll keep quarterback Baker Mayfield, guard Wyatt Teller and cornerback Denzel Ward, but Chubb's deal was a significant achievement for a team that is unquestionably on the rise. For Chubb, the extension fulfills his financial desire in a place that is precisely where he wants to be.
"It means everything. I love it here in Cleveland," Chubb said. "I love this team. I love the coaches. I love the position that I am in. I can't ask for anything better than where I am. Cleveland is where I want to be. I am happy to be able to get that done so I can be here for even more years."