When the NFL free agency market opened a couple of weeks ago, many Cleveland Browns fans probably thought that running back Kareem Hunt would be signing a deal with a new team. He had requested a trade from the Browns a year ago when he was in training camp. He was discouraged and wanted more involvement in the offense. So all signs pointed to his exit.
That exit hasn't happened as of yet. There are still many teams working behind the scenes negotiating and making offers but the running back market is slim pickings in free agency and Hunt is likely the best available option for teams still looking to sign a back.
Hunt was mentioned in deals to maybe the Buffalo Bills and the Miami Dolphins, but those teams signed other players. The Dolphins re-signed Raheem Mostert and the Bills struck a deal with Damien Harris. That move came after the Bills lost Devin Singletary to the Houston Texans, another team that was scoping out the running back room in free agency.
So, those moves have now limited where Hunt might land. The Los Angeles Chargers may need a running back after Austin Ekeler requested a trade. But, the choices are dwindling especially if Hunt was looking to be that primary back for a new franchise.
Hunt's former Cleveland teammate D'Ernest Johnson signed a new deal with the Jacksonville Jaguars this week. Some thought Johnson might return to Cleveland but after last season where he was hardly used in the backfield, it was likely a good move for him to go to a new team with new opportunities.
Hunt is originally from Cleveland where he grew up. He attended Toledo in college and quickly became a star in the NFL when he was the rushing leader in his rookie season while playing for the Kansas City Chiefs in 2017. However, he had some off-the-field issues and was suspended by the league. He was then traded to Cleveland and played the latter half of the 2019 season after the suspension.
Then the 2020 season happened and Hunt had a great season for the Browns. He ran the ball for 841 yards and caught 38 passes for 304 yards and scored 11 touchdowns. It seemed at the time that Cleveland had the most lethal backfield in the NFL as the team had their other running back Nick Chubb carrying the load.
However, the following 2021 season, Hunt was injured for half the year and then in 2022, he struggled mightily and seemed to have lost a step. And that leads us to where we are today. I still expect Hunt to move on to a new team, but if he can't find a new suitor, then bringing him back to his hometown wouldn't be the worst move by either party.