I believe in second chances for human beings. We are all far from perfect. But, some things are worse than others. I definitely believe if Kareem Hunt was able to handle his punishment with grace and become a spokesman against violence towards women, he would earn his second chance. It is now 9 days after the Superbowl and Kareem Hunt got a job yesterday. There hasn’t been any discipline handed down by the NFL. In fact, the events of the past year are still under investigation by Roger Goodell and his jabronis. I understand that players can still find jobs when they are under the commissioner’s exempt list, but for Kareem Hunt to be signed before free agency has even popped off is a bit off-putting.
I don’t think that the Cleveland Browns needed to stick their necks out for Kareem Hunt. It is a bit confusing because I was under the impression that their backfield was in pretty good shape. They have put A LOT of effort in the past couple of off seasons trying to excel at a position that is becoming less and less important by the season. After signing Carlos Hyde to a healthy deal for a running back, Cleveland drafted Nick Chubb with a second round pick. They were able to sell off Carlos Hyde to the Jaguars, which was a miracle in itself. They had already won! Duke Johnson Jr. is perfectly capable of being a complimentary passing down back if their bell cow needs a breather. What is done is done. Let’s get to how this changes the landscape of the Cleveland Brown’s backfield.
Kareem Hunt signed a one-year deal with the Cleveland Browns with team control for the 2020 season. Between the hotel incident that we have all seen the tape of and the accusations of violence at night clubs, things are looking very dire for Kareem Hunt’s availability in week one of 2019. If I had a guess, November would be the earliest that we would see him back out on the field.
There are a couple things that factor into this. One possibility is that Roger Goodell can choose to hand down a lengthy suspension by the time the regular season rolls around in September. Based on the history of behavior, I don’t think that he will handle things lightly. There is also the possibility that the investigation takes a long time and Hunt remains on the commissioner’s exempt list going into the regular season without the length of his suspension being resolved. I’m not quite sure if the NFL works like the criminal justice system where you get credit for time served. There are “inmates running the prison” jokes that I could make here, but that seems like low-hanging fruit, so I’ll pass.
Best case scenario for Kareem Hunt is probably a swiftly given 4-game suspension. So what does his role in the offense look like? Nick Chubb has shown that he can handle a heavy workload and he will have at least a four-game head start on Kareem Hunt in this offense in 2019. I think that the best case for Hunt would be an even split of the backfield with Nick Chubb unless Chubb is hurt or under performs. The second option seems unlikely to me.
Kareem Hunt had a lot of success in Kansas City. He led the league in rushing yards in his rookie season and you can also toss in his 455 receiving yards on 53 catches to go along with his 11 touchdowns. His second season got off to a little bit of a slower start in September, but by the end of the 11 games that he played in 2018, he had 14 touchdowns and over 1,000 all purpose yards. How much of this was actually because of Kareem Hunt’s talent and how much of it was Andy Reid’s offense? Damien Williams actually filled in quite nicely. He averaged 5.1 yards per carry to Kareem Hunt’s 4.6 and he scored 6 touchdowns over the final 5 games. This was just the regular season. In Damien William’s two playoff starts he caught 10 balls, had a two touchdown game, and a 100 yard rushing game. I’m not one of those fantasy guys that think running backs don’t matter, but we can’t pretend that game plan and team philosophy aren’t huge contributors.
Kareem Hunt is probably going to be a mid-round flier. I’m probably not going to be the person in my leagues that takes a chance on him. Nick Chubb, on the other hand, is not going to cost you a first round pick anymore making it possible for him to have a big return on value if things break his way. There’s a possibility that the Browns envision an Alvin Kamara-Mark Ingram type one-two punch between Chubb and Hunt which could be interesting. Still, I can’t pretend that I’m not disappointed. I was looking forward to 16 games of Nick Chubb as the bell cow and continuing his quest to be one of the best backs in the league. As for Duke Johnson Jr., he signed a contract extension in 2018 and I hope that Cleveland takes mercy on him and trades him. But, you never know with this franchise. Seriously. They just signed Kareem Hunt.