Despite an NFL career filled with injuries, the former Buckeye was a top free agent heading into the offseason.
One of the top running back free agents this offseason, Carlos Hyde has signed a three-year deal, worth more than $15 million with the Cleveland Browns, according to Ian Rapoport, including $6 million in the first year. It feels like Hyde has been in the NFL forever, but in reality he’s fresh off playing his final season under his rookie contract and was a first-time free agent heading into the offseason.
Originally drafted by the San Francisco 49ers in 2014 with the No. 57 overall pick, the running back out of Ohio State had a rough few seasons to start his NFL career, seeing three different head coaches in his first four years. Things finally started to turn around with the hiring of Kyle Shanahan as head coach in 2017.
Hyde finished last season having played and started in all 16 games — the first time he’s done so in his career. He went on to claim career high rushing TDs (8), carries (240), longest rush (61 yards), and total offensive yards (1288). He also saw a lot more action off short passes, resulting in career high targets (88), receptions (59), receiving yards (350), and receiving yards per game average (21.9).
Basically, everything about El Guapo was better and more productive during the 2017 NFL season than ever before.
So, what makes Hyde’s new deal risky?
The biggest concern for the running back is whether he can stay healthy. Fortunately for Hyde, he proved in 2017 that he was able to pull off an entire season in the starting lineup — even despite some on-and-off hip and concussion issues. The bad news is that his very long list of injuries (for someone only in the league a few years) is admittedly concerning.
During his time with the Buckeyes, Hyde only missed two games with a knee sprain, but that would end up being just the tip of the iceberg. The back missed the final two games of his rookie season due to ankle and back sprains, was sidelined in Week 5 of the 2015 season with a fractured foot, and then a combination of a concussion, shoulder sprain and MCL tear kept him out for various games throughout the 2016 season. Despite a host of bad news that year, Hyde’s MCL tear didn’t require surgery, at least. The running back ended up finishing both the 2015 and 2016 seasons on the Niners IR list.
Hyde may have missed three games in 2016, but he still amassed a career-high 988 rushing yards off of 217 carries. He also finished the year with 1,151 total offensive yards good for nine total touchdowns (another career-high). His injuries were certainly a factor in deciding what kind of deal to sign the running back to, but his production still made the deal worth it for the Browns.
It’s actually a pretty solid deal for the Browns. Hyde lands in with a team more committed to its ground game and the kind of offensive line needed to make it work.
What this means for the Browns
Hue Jackson surrendering play calling duties was a good sign for the Browns this offseason. Signing Todd Haley as their new offensive coordinator was another step in the right direction. The earlier offseason addition of Tyrod Taylor at quarterback along with the Hyde signing makes it seem like the Browns are committed to running the kind of zone read, run-option offense that best fits Taylor’s style. Hyde only adds to that.
But the real question here is whether or not signing Hyde will throw cold water on those rumors that the team might try and draft Penn State running back Saquon Barkley with the first pick in the draft.
Anything is possible. This is still the Browns, after all, and Barkley’s a special talent who would make any team better. However, there’s just no need for the Browns to add him at this point, not with the other needs they have to fill on the roster, namely finding a blue chip rookie to develop behind Taylor. Plus, with Hyde in the mix, there just wouldn’t be enough work to justify spending a high pick on him.