While many seem to think the Cleveland Browns’ future at the running back position could and should be Nick Chubb, the organization decided to go ahead and give Kareem Hunt a two-year extension on Tuesday.
The two sides agreed on a $13.25 million dollar deal with $8.5 million guaranteed and locking Hunt in as a member of the Browns through the 2022 season.
The $6.625 yearly average puts Hunt the tenth highest-paid running back in terms of a per year average so it’s not a major cap hit on a team that already had the most cap space in the league heading into this season and will also have a lot of cap space heading into next season even with a projected drop in the salary cap.
The 25-year-old running back hit a crossroads just two seasons ago when the Kansas City Chiefs released him after a video surfaced of him striking a female in a Cleveland hotel in February of 2018.
Cleveland took a chance on him when they signed him in February 2019, knowing a suspension was looming for violating the NFL’s conduct policy for the incident and Hunt was suspended for the first eight games of the 2019 season. The Browns stood by Hunt and wanted to create a structure that could help Hunt grow as a person while still showcasing his abilities on the football field.
When Hunt returned following his suspension, he showed the football world that he still had plenty to give on the field as the Browns offense utilized both himself as well as Nick Chubb. Hunt had 80 touches for 464 yards from scrimmage and three total touchdowns in the final eight games of the season and whether it was as a runner or receiver, he helped improve the Browns offense as they scored 22.9 points per game with Hunt compared to the 19 points per game without him.
As we look towards 2020, it’s apparent that the Browns will continue to lean on both Hunt and Chubb in the offensive under head coach Kevin Stefanski and offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt. Running backs have shined in the wide zone scheme whether it was utilized by Mike and Kyle Shanahan, Gary Kubiak, or Kevin Stefanski.
Since the extension was announced, many have speculated what this means going forward for both Hunt and Chubb in there roles on the team going forward. It’s safe to say that Chubb will be the lead back in terms of carries but it shouldn’t surprise anyone if Hunt were to get more touches because Hunt is more effective as a receiver out of the backfield or perhaps lined up as a wide receiver in certain personnel packages.
With the scuttlebutt as to who the third wide receiver is behind Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry, one could argue that Kareem Hunt is the third wide receiver which isn’t a good or bad thing, it’s just that he is a weapon that Stefanski and Van Pelt will utilize him anyway possible to help the offense.
As it pertains to paying Nick Chubb which is a hot topic and will continue to be going forward, Andrew Berry will build the roster the best way possible and that’s been apparent since he took over football operations earlier this season. Paying running backs a high figure isn’t the best way to build a sustaining, winning football team and you can look at examples around the NFL to prove that theory.
The Browns love both Chubb and Hunt but it is possible to keep both of them around while also paying the likes of Myles Garrett, Odell Beckham Jr., and Jarvis Landry with contract extensions potentially looming for Baker Mayfield and Denzel Ward? That’s likely a strong no.
The Browns have a lot of talent but sacrifices will have to be made if they want to build a winning football team and to sustain that if the team gets on the right track and becomes a perennial playoff contender. That’s why they pay Andrew Berry and the front office to make those difficult decisions and that’s why everyone else should sit back and watch how it all plays out in 2020 and beyond.