4 veteran free agents the Cleveland Browns should still sign before the 2023 season
1. Kareem Hunt, Running Back
Honestly, this is a reunion that I am not thrilled about. I really wanted the Browns to sign former Viking and Chief, Jerick McKinnon, but he's returning to Kansas City for 2023. After failing to choose a running back in the 2023 NFL Draft, I believe the Browns have a glaring need at running back.
After the ever-reliable Nick Chubb, Cleveland has 2022 fifth-round pick Jerome Ford on their running back depth chart. Ford, who carried the ball a total of eight times as a rookie, is the only real option after Chubb. As mentioned with multiple positions above, Cleveland could use a proven player with experience, production, and versatility.
Looking at the remaining list of free agents, only three names stick out to me that fit the bill. Veteran Rex Burkhead, former Cleveland Brown Dontrell Hilliard, and 2023 Brown and local favorite Kareem Hunt are the only players with the passing down ability that the Browns will likely be looking for.
I completely agree with the many Browns fans who that argue Hunt was not the same player in 2022. He wasn't. He wasn't nearly as effective in any facet of his game, hardly outpacing his numbers from 2021 when he played just 8 games.
However, at this point in the offseason, you have to look at the remaining options with an open mind. Hunt still graded fairly well with Pro Football Focus as a receiver and as a pass blocker, which are the two most important aspects of the "third-down back" role he would likely play in 2023. Ford, the Browns clearly seem to like, would be the back to spell Chubb for a full drive here and there while Hunt finds certain situations to make an impact with what he is still doing well.
Hunt is still just 27 years old, so I find it hard to believe that he is completely "washed" and not valuable to an NFL team. I think McKinnon would have been the perfect fit for the Browns and what they will likely be trying to do on offense, but Hunt wouldn't be a bad consolation prize if he signs a modest contract with his hometown team who took a chance on him when he was down and nearly out.
He knows Stefanski, knows Berry, and knows that the Browns are very close to being contenders if they have all the right pieces, and, at this point, he could very well be one of them.