One of the most important things that an NFL team can do at an organizational level is to demonstrate over the course of time both their ability and willingness to do right by their players, to show them that if you play well and do things the right way, you will be rewarded.
In other words, you will get paid. We will keep you in-house and match your compensation to your contributions and skill level, as a physical representation of what you mean to the team. In other words, throwing dollars around makes people want to get those dollars.
While that isn’t why they did it, Cleveland Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski acknowledged that it is one of the hidden, unintended benefits behind their new deal with fourth-year running back Nick Chubb, a two-time Pro Bowler who was signed for $36.6 million on a three-year extension a short time ago.
“I think so much of this the guys know. It is a business so you can’t keep everybody”, he told reporters. “As I have always said, I want to keep everybody. Certainly in moments like this when you reward a guy like Nick, I think it probably does send a good message”.
Of course, the Browns do not have a great history of paying their players, and there is some tie-in with their lack of success, as well. Just running down their list of first-round picks is a veritable who’s who of ‘who’s that?’.
Every single first-round pick that they selected prior to 2017 is now gone, many of them even out of the league prematurely. Even Jabrill Peppers, one of three first-round picks for them in 2017, was traded in 2019 to the New York Giants as a part of the deal that brought over Odell Beckham Jr.
Here’s just a quick list running back a decade from 2016 to 2007. All of them are gone, many of them already out of the league, almost none of them actually having played up to their pedigree: WR Corey Coleman; NT Danny Shelton; OL Cameron Irving; CB Justin Gilbert; QB Johnny Manziel; LB Barkevious Mingo; RB Trent Richardson; QB Brandon Weeden; NT Phil Taylor; CB Joe Haden; C Alex Mack; T Joe Thomas; QB Brady Quinn.
Outside of Haden, Mack, and Thomas, from 2010 and earlier, that’s a really awful list of first-round picks. Outside of those named, none ever signed a second contract with the team, and many were traded before their rookie deals were even up.
The Browns have shifted regimes and cultures numerous times in that span of time, and they think they may have finally gotten things right under Stefanski, leading them to a winning record and a playoff victory in his first season in 2020. Chubb has been critical to their turnaround, and rewarding him, as his head coach says, sends a good message to the rest of the locker room.