Kareem Hunt’s Outlook with the Cleveland Browns
Some NFL team was going to sign Kareem Hunt. He performed too well in his time in Kansas City and was at too young of an age for a team to not take a chance on him. He likely will have to serve a suspension at the beginning of his Browns tenure and he might not even make it to the field in Cleveland, but it does make football sense.
The Browns have Nick Chubb and Duke Johnson in place but do have a hole at the third running back slot, which creates a problem for some NFL teams, especially in the case of injury. We saw the Los Angeles Rams fall victim to this problem in 2018 when Todd Gurley got injured towards the end of their season. Provided that the salary cap hit is low (close to the veteran’s minimum) it is a smart roster construction move to have three capable running backs on the roster. Dontrell Hilliard and Devante Mays are the current Browns third-stringers and neither are in the same class as Hunt is.
Nick Chubb was one of the true workhorse NFL running backs in 2018. He handled over 80% of the team’s running back carries once Carlos Hyde was traded to Jacksonville and Duke Johnson played more wide receiver than running back for the majority of the season. It’s possible that the team is viewing this as a chance to lessen Chubb’s week-to-week workload and also keep Johnson playing primarily in the slot, as opposed to shifting him back into a more traditional running back role.
What I think is most likely, however, is that Hunt plays a fairly limited role for Cleveland. Hunt may not even be eligible to play before the Week Eight trade deadline. There is a chance that he gets into the Browns facility, there is minimal fan outrage and therefore could be used to net the Browns a draft pick in a trade. Furthermore, if he stays on the team for the entire 2019 season and then becomes a restricted free agent, Hunt could also get the Browns a compensatory draft pick if he leaves via restricted free agency. While John Dorsey is certainly not Sashi Brown, this is the sort of calculated Moneyball-style move that the Browns were famous for during Brown’s tenure in Cleveland. Hunt is clearly a very talented player with off-field baggage (which, by the way, is an area that Dorsey doesn’t care abou,t as evidenced by Antonio Callaway and others) who could benefit the Browns organization both on the field and in future roster building.