Browns Dubbed Top Fit for $8 Million NFL Rushing Champ

Kevin Stefanski, Browns

Getty Head coach Kevin Stefanski of the Cleveland Browns.

The Cleveland Browns have already added one running back this week, though they may not be finished bolstering the position.

Cleveland signed one former NFL rushing champion when they reunited with Kareem Hunt on Wednesday, September 20. However, while Hunt is arguably past his prime, 2021 rushing champ Jonathan Taylor is in the thick of his.

Taylor is currently on the injured reserve list (IR) with an ankle injury, where he will remain through at least Week 4. The Indianapolis Colts fielded trade offers for the running back ahead of the regular season but didn’t receive an offer they liked enough to make a move. With Taylor now potentially a couple of weeks away from returning to action, a group of NFL insiders at ESPN put together a list of the top five fits for the former All-Pro.

Atop that list are the Browns, who lost Pro Bowler Nick Chubb for the season to a brutal knee injury against the Pittsburgh Steelers last Monday night.

Jonathan Taylor Will Cost Browns at Least 2nd-Round Pick

Jonathan Taylor

GettyIndianapolis Colts running back Jonathan Taylor remains a potential trade target of the Cleveland Browns. 

Dan Graziano pitched a trade on Thursday that would swap Cleveland’s second-round pick in the 2024 NFL Draft for 13 games of Taylor this season, which would potentially include a long-term extension for the running back moving forward.

[The Browns’] identity is so tied to their run game, their quarterback looks so bad and there are aren’t many backs with the character and skill set to replace everything Chubb gives them. They signed Kareem Hunt on Wednesday, but there’s a reason he was still a free agent into the season. Trading for Taylor likely would mean Hunt would go back on the market.

The Colts get back a pick in the same round where they took Taylor in 2020, and they’re rid of an ugly situation. The Browns still owe Chubb nearly $12 million in (non-guaranteed) salary in 2024, so the situation gets complicated if Taylor requires a new contract in order to play for them. Chubb’s future is somewhat up in the air at the moment, though, and the Browns have the cap space to dump a whole bunch of money into this year if they need to do so to get a deal done for Taylor.

As of Thursday, the Browns had nearly $36 million in available salary cap space. The 24-year-old Taylor is playing on fourth and final year of his $7.8 million rookie contract.

Jerome Ford Remains Browns’ Top Running Back, For Now

Jerome Ford remains the lead back for the Cleveland Browns after the signing of Kareem Hunt.

GettyJerome Ford remains the lead back for the Cleveland Browns after the signing of Kareem Hunt.

Second-year player and 2022 fifth-round pick Jerome Ford took the helm following Chubb’s injury Monday night and performed admirably in by far the most action he’s seen through 19 regular season games in his career.

Ford finished the night with 106 yards on 16 carries and three receptions for 36 yards. Head coach Kevin Stefanski said Wednesday that Ford will be the team’s lead back moving forward.

“Jerome is the lead back,” Stefanski said. “But we have to work through all of those type of things and what Kareem’s ready to do this week, if he’s ready to go this week, and what type of load he can carry. … But yes, Jerome is the starter.”

Ford and Hunt should be a formidable duo. But with the Browns clearly all-in on trying to win this season and over the next couple of years, it would be far from shocking if the team kicked the tires on a potential trade for one of the most dynamic young running backs in the NFL.

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