Next up on our list of Browns’ free agents is RB Kareem Hunt, who has served as a backup to starter Nick Chubb for several seasons.
How and When He Joined the Browns: After spending the first two years of his career with the Kansas City Chiefs, that second year was clouded by his off-the-field domestic violence incident. The Chiefs released him during the season despite coming off of a Pro Bowl season. During the 2019 offseason, the Browns signed him. He would be suspended for the first eight games that season before making his debut.
Productivity Level Last Season: Despite the fact that he played in all 17 games, Hunt had a very pedestrian season, rushing 123 times for 468 yards (3.8 YPC) and 3 touchdowns. He also caught 35 passes for 210 yards and 1 touchdown.
To compare, when Hunt played all 16 games in 2020 (5 of which were as a starter), he had 198 carries for 841 yards (4.2 YPC) and 6 touchdowns to go along with 38 catches for 304 yards and 5 touchdowns. Last year, he averaged 5.0 YPC. It was hard to put a finger on why Hunt didn’t have a big impact this past season. Jared Mueller discussed some possible reasons as to why here, including that maybe he’s just lost a little step despite only being 27 years of age.
Why Keeping Him Could Make Sense: I understand that running backs can have a shorter shelf life, but Kareem Hunt has not had a starting-level workload since he was a rookie with the Chiefs. His wear-and-tear has been kept relatively fresh for a running back — so what was wrong with his production in 2022?
Some people wondered if him being in the final year of his contract was weighing on his mind, but I can’t imagine that being the case — if anything, this was the time when he would want to light it up and secure a big contract from another team. Instead, his output was meager. We’re also in a time where more and more teams are finding new running backs through the draft or as undrafted players relatively easy, so maybe the market for Hunt won’t be strong and he’ll take another hometown discount to stay as the complement to Nick Chubb.
What the Browns Should Do: The Browns clearly need a backup running back behind Chubb, but they are also looking to shave cap space at positions where they already have a proven star in the top spot on the depth chart. That means the years of having Hunt as a luxury have expired, and I’m also at the point now where I’m fine letting him go. D’Ernest Johnson is also a free agent. The team drafted Jerome Ford in the fifth round last season, and Mueller posted an NFL Combine rumor today that Cleveland, “sees RB Jerome Ford as already adept in the passing game and think he could be a weapon right away.”
As far as money goes, Hunt was on a 2-year, $12 million extension with the Browns. I think he’ll be searching for a similar 1- or 2-year deal around the same amount — which doesn’t fit what Cleveland is trying to do in squeezing to save cap space. Ford’s cap hit will be about $950,000 this year, as opposed to Hunt who would be around $5 to $6 million if re-signed.
Let us know below whether or not the team should try to re-sign RB Kareem Hunt.
Should the Browns re-sign RB Kareem Hunt?
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