The NFL announced Friday running back Kareem Hunt will be suspended eight games, which will end at a good time for the Cleveland Browns.
The NFL announced Friday Cleveland Browns running back Kareem Hunt will be suspended for the first eight games of the 2019 regular season. The suspension is a result of two off-field incidents involving Hunt.
When the Browns signed Hunt in February, the team was expecting the 23-year-old to be suspended for 8-10 games, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.
Following the announcement of Hunt’s suspension, the Browns can now make a decision on if they plan on trading running back Duke Johnson.
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The Browns have been shopping Johnson in recent days, according to Cleveland.com’s Mary Kay Cabot. Cabot also reported teams around the league believe the Browns are more than willing to move Johnson, but they are waiting on good compensation before moving the running back.
The announcement of Hunt’s decision will either make the Browns more motivated to move Johnson or to hold onto Johnson until the trade deadline. If the Browns choose the latter, Hunt’s suspension of eight games plays into the Browns favor.
Depending on the Browns schedule, Hunt will be returning to the field either the week of the trade deadline or one week after the trade deadline. So if the Browns choose to keep Johnson into the regular season, they will be able to use him as the backup running back until the deadline.
Then at the deadline, they could trade Johnson while Hunt comes back the same week. This would allow the Browns to have a solid backup behind Nick Chubb for the entire regular season.
However, even with Hunt’s suspension ending around the trade deadline, Cleveland may decide to trade Johnson this off-season. If they receive good compensation for Johnson, then they could have Dontrell Hilliard fill into Johnson’s role as a pass catching running back for the first half of the season.
But for the Browns, the best part about Hunt’s suspension is he will be returning at the perfect time to ease Chubb’s workload. With Hunt suspended for the first half of the season, Chubb’s workload will likely be similar to his workload last season.
In the final 10 games of the season, Chubb averaged 17.6 carries per game. If it were not for the Browns blowout loss to the Houston Texans in Week 13, Chubb’s average would have been higher.
If the Browns do not believe in Johnson or Hilliard as runners, then Chubb will probably have the same average of carries to start the season. At some point, Chubb will slow down during the season with this workload. And when Freddie Kitchens became the team’s offensive coordinator last season, Chubb became more involved as a receiver. So that will tack on more touches for Chubb at the start of the 2019 season.
But with Hunt returning at the midpoint of the season, the Browns can take a bunch of touches off Chubb’s back and they will not see a drop off at the running back positon. This will help keep Chubb and Hunt fresh for the stretch run of the season as the Browns hope to be in playoff contention next year.
Having a bunch of depth at a position is a great thing for any team. But for the Browns, their running back depth will be beneficial for the entire 2019 season. Despite Hunt’s suspension, Cleveland will have a variety of options at the running back position, playing into the Browns favor.