Kareem Hunt has approached the Cleveland Browns about a contract extension according to a story from Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com. Any action regarding a possible extension is pending at the moment as nothing further has been reported about Hunt’s request. Even though Hunt has expressed his desire to remain with the Browns for the rest of his career there is not a reason to rush towards any lengthening of their current agreement.
Nick Chubb is entering the first year of his three-year extension signed prior to last season. While the deal is a bargain for Cleveland, compounding multiple extensions at a position that has become increasingly devalued is not a wise decision. As things currently stand Cleveland will be paying their running back room over $14 million this season, the seventh-most in the NFL. Chubb’s $14.8 million cap hit alone for next season exceeds the collective total currently ($14.48 million), simple logic says some cost cutting will be done in this area moving forward and unfortunately for Hunt that does not point towards an extended stay.
The Browns have other options
Kareem Hunt is just one part of Cleveland’s multi-faceted rushing attack. A three-headed monster consisting of Nick Chubb, D’Ernest Johnson, and Hunt is one of if not the best backfield in the National Football League. Cleveland also has Demetric Felton, Jerome Ford, and John Kelly who can play the position as well. There are plenty of options should the Browns look for someone to fill Hunt’s role.
Hunt is the most accomplished out of all the backs not named Chubb and is more than capable of being a starter in the NFL. Johnson is also capable of being in a more prominent role should he be given the opportunity, which could be in Cleveland or elsewhere. This upcoming season will be the final year of the most recent deal Hunt signed with Cleveland. Johnson signed a one-year deal to remain with the Browns instead of signing elsewhere under his restricted free agent tender. It is easy to see a scenario that both players are not on the roster after this upcoming season.
No need to rush in the other direction either
The knee-jerk reaction to a situation playing out in this manner is to immediately swing hard in the opposite direction. This is not necessary. The Browns do not have the urgent need to move on from any of their running backs at this moment in time. There is not an uncomfortable elephant in the room replacement-incumbent situation on this part of the roster. Cleveland is able to go into the season with this room as-is without having to navigate an unpleasant situation.
Now this does not mean run it back with everyone and do not entertain other options. Should the situation arise that a team is in desperate need of a running back (unlikely) they could deal Kareem Hunt or Johnson to benefit all parties. Holding on to their backs can also be an insurance policy should unfortunate events take place. The Browns do not want to put themselves behind the eight ball after dealing from depth and suddenly find themselves in need of help.
Perhaps a different team offers an enticing opportunity next offseason
Since coming to Cleveland from Kansas City Kareem Hunt has been in offenses on the complete opposite ends of the spectrum. Explosive play after explosive play from the Chiefs while the Browns were a more calculated and methodical style of offense. With Deshaun Watson now in at quarterback it could lead to Hunt having a renaissance type year as opposing defenses can stop running what is essentially goal line defense against Cleveland. Having a quarterback that actually strikes fear into the heart of a defense makes all the difference in the world and could lead to many more explosive plays for the Browns next season. This could lead to Hunt having many more chances to break big plays and that could change his prospects.
If Hunt is able to play at that level again more teams could come calling with more money and playing time, two things that Cleveland would not be able to match. Scenarios playing out in this manner is all part of the team building process. As a team ascends in terms of competitiveness it forces them to move on from role players while maintaining as much of their foundation as possible. This leads to situations like the Browns moving on from players such as Hunt and possibly others. It is about viewing things from a broad perspective and identifying key members of a roster for the long term. While Kareem Hunt has been able to revitalize his career in Cleveland he does not fall in the group of must haves for the Browns in their quest to become a consistent Super Bowl contender year-after-year.