After losing Nick Chubb to a season-ending knee injury on Monday night, the Cleveland Browns are bringing back a familiar face. Kareem Hunt, who played for the Browns from 2019-22 before reaching free agency in the spring, has agreed to a one-year deal to return to Cleveland.
What will Hunt bring to the Browns’ offense, and how does his addition affect Jerome Ford, Cleveland’s incumbent RB who took over after Chubb went down?
Browns To Sign Kareem Hunt After Losing Nick Chubb
The Browns moved quickly to find more running back help after Chubb suffered a gruesome knee injury against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Monday night, moving toward a deal with Hunt fewer than 48 hours after the loss of Chubb.
Cabot reported on Tuesday that Hunt was on Cleveland’s radar and also suggested the Browns would look into a trade for Los Angeles Rams running back Cam Akers, who remains available after falling out of favor in L.A. and losing his starting role to Kyren Williams.
Cleveland also checked in on free agent Trey Sermon, according to ESPN, before the former Ohio State RB signed with the Indianapolis Colts’ practice squad on Tuesday.
The #Browns are signing their own former RB Kareem Hunt, agreeing to terms with him on a 1-year deal worth up to $4M. After a multi-stop journey, he lands back home. On a visit yesterday, he now can help the team deal with the loss of star Nick Chubb. pic.twitter.com/yxqv9VC8WD
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) September 20, 2023
Cleveland is already more than familiar with Hunt, who totaled nearly 3,000 yards from scrimmage and scored 23 touchdowns for the club over the past four seasons. But a Tuesday meeting between the two parties apparently solidified Hunt’s return.
The Browns did not make Hunt an offer after his contract in Cleveland expired this offseason. He drew interest from the Commanders, Saints, Colts, and Vikings and reportedly had four contract proposals on the table near the end of August.
“Well, we are working on (signing a running back),” Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski said earlier this week. “(General manager) Andrew (Berry) and the personnel department is working through options.
“You don’t, as you know, you don’t replace Nick Chubb. You just don’t do that. Great players in the league, you look around, they go out. It’s always not one person that replaces a player of his caliber. So everybody’s got to do a little bit more, a little bit more everywhere. But we’ll look at options there in terms of who we bring in.”
Ford, the Browns’ 2022 fifth-round pick who posted 106 rushing yards after Chubb left Monday’s game, should remain Cleveland’s top running back. But the Browns wouldn’t have signed Hunt if they didn’t have a role in mind for him.
Admittedly, as Kevin Cole points out, Hunt put up the worst efficiency and rushing success rate of his career in 2022. But the 28-year-old remains a talented pass catcher who averaged 42 targets per season during his time in Cleveland.
Ford didn’t post much receiving production in college until his final season at the University of Cincinnati, when he totaled 220 yards on 21 receptions. His pre-draft scouting report suggested he has the soft hands and blocking prowess required to work on passing downs, but that’s not a role he’s held in the NFL thus far.