The 2023 NFL free agency period is firing off at a breakneck pace. While some players will return to their current teams, most players, especially the larger names, will look for a potential new landing spot, as is the case with RB Kareem Hunt. As one of the biggest names at his position after spending the last four years with the Cleveland Browns, what are some possible landing spots for Hunt for the 2023 season?
Kareem Hunt Free Agency Best Fits
It feels like such a long time ago that Hunt burst onto the scene and won Offensive Rookie of The Year in 2017. Ever since leaving Kansas City under less-than-ideal circumstances, Hunt has served as the primary backup in a satellite role.
2020 saw Hunt record his highest usage, rushing 198 times for 841 yards with six touchdowns, but he has totaled 201 carries combined over the last two seasons. Part of this was also due to injuries, as Hunt played in eight games in 2021 due to calf and ankle injuries.
With that said, Hunt has quite a bit of tread left on his tires as receiving-centric backs tend to take less abuse on a per-snap basis, especially when compared to his backfield counterpart, Nick Chubb.
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The running back pool of free agents is quickly drying up. Josh Jacobs, Saquon Barkley, and Tony Pollard received franchise tags to keep them from hitting the open market.
Additionally, Miles Sanders is now a Panther, David Montgomery signed with the Lions, Jamaal Williams agreed to a deal with New Orleans, and Rashaad Penny joined the Eagles, leaving Hunt and recently released Leonard Fournette and Ezekiel Elliott as the best available options.
With an estimated market value of $7 million AAV on a two-year, $14.02 million contract, who would be considered the best fits for Hunt as the 2023 NFL free agency period continues?
Atlanta Could Benefit From Kareem Hunt’s Receiving Skill Set
Tyler Allgeier was efficient as a rookie, recording 1,035 yards on 210 carries as one of only two rookie RBs in 2022 to cross the 1,000-yard threshold. However, he brings very little in the way of receiving upside.
One of the best storylines of 2021, Cordarrelle Patterson struggled to replicate his career-best season, recording 695 rushing yards on 144 attempts with just 122 yards on 21 receptions — a drastic drop from the 548 yards on 52 of 69 receiving the year before.
As Patterson is set to turn 32 in the coming days, it’s safe to say he is at the end of his career and could be cut by the Falcons to save some cap space. Hunt would be an obvious choice as a replacement, as his skill set would be a strong fit for what the Falcons’ backfield would need if they move off Patterson.
Hunt, a solid rusher in his own right, would complement Allgeier as the receiving/change-of-pace back. Plus, he’d allow head coach Arthur Smith to lean on the rushing attack as he did in 2022 and try to take the next step in a rather wide-open NFC South division.
Los Angeles Could Look To Hunt if They Trade Austin Ekeler
One of the biggest unresolved storylines is the Chargers allowing star running back Austin Ekerler to explore joining a different squad. It has been reported that the latest contract negotiations “failed to progress,” according to ESPN’s Lindsey Thiry. Due to this, Austin Ekeler has been given permission to seek a trade.
Ekeler led the NFL in 2022 with 18 total touchdowns after scoring 20 in 2021. He rushed for 915 yards on 204 carries and caught 107 passes for 722 yards last season. Often a primary target out of the backfield, Ekeler also led the NFL with 822 yards after the catch.
Ekeler took to his Instagram page and posted some cryptic messages that have stoked the fires that he will be dealt from the Chargers soon.
“No telling how any of this will turn out. Just know I love all of you that continue to support me as a person and not just the logo I play for.”
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While determining the potential compensation is a topic for a different day, the depth chart would have a massive hole should Ekeler be traded.
Isaiah Spiller, a rookie in 2022, lost a ton of the hype he was carrying while at Texas A&M, and it is yet to be seen what he will do in the NFL. But as part of the committee, I think he does bring some value. However, who will take the bulk of the carries and do the dirty work?
Hunt has shown, both in Kansas City and in Cleveland, that he can be a very dynamic running back and is a weapon out of the backfield, though nowhere near the level of Ekeler. With that said, only Christian McCaffrey and Alvin Kamara can claim to be on par with him as a receiving back.
Hunt would be a far more cap-friendly option for the Chargers, who still need work on their roster to compete with the defending Super Bowl Champion Chiefs.
Hunt Would Mesh Well in Houston Alongside Dameon Pierce
With Rex Burkhead and Royce Freeman free agents, the Texans have a few vacancies in the RB room.
Dameon Pierce was as efficient as you could ask in his rookie season, recording a 27% evaded-tackles-per-touch rate and 2.87 yards created per touch. In 13 games, Pierce ran for 939 yards and five touchdowns on 220 carries. He even tacked on a very respectable 9.4% target share.
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Expected to receive a larger rushing workload in 2023, Hunt could help keep Pierce fresh as he plays with a very physical rushing style that can wear a body down. Hunt also helps to fill the gap left by Burkhead as a satellite back who can catch the ball very well and be a safe checkdown option for whoever will be under center for the Texans — likely a rookie at the No. 2 overall pick.
While the skill up front would be a downgrade for Hunt, Houston could sign him on a team-friendly deal in free agency and bolster their running back room while providing a stable rushing attack which will help ease in a rookie signal-caller — presumably C.J. Stroud or Bryce Young based on current mock drafts.