The Cleveland Browns have landed on their Nick Chubb replacement. Wednesday morning brought word that Cleveland is re-signing running back Kareem Hunt, bringing back a familiar face to help fill the void after Chubb's major knee injury.
This is a move some have been clamoring for, but fans should temper their expectations, especially at first.
Browns News: Kareem Hunt Re-Signs With Cleveland
Let's start with the obvious: Hunt makes a ton of sense in the wake of Chubb's injury. He enjoyed four productive seasons in Cleveland, with the 2020 campaign (841 yards, 6 touchdowns) arguably being the best year of his career outside of his electric rookie showing.
While health was a struggle for the veteran RB and he didn't have a lead-back role with Chubb clearly in front of him on the depth chart, Hunt made the most of his touches when he was on the field. He had a strong nose for the end zone, totaling 23 total TDs (16 rushing, 7 receiving) during his last four seasons. His ability as a dual-threat out of the backfield (average of 33.0 receptions and 243.3 yards since 2019) just adds to the ways he can impact a game.
That being said, there's a reason the Browns decided to part ways with Hunt this offseason. He started to slow down in 2022 and Cleveland seemed to recognize this, which resulted in a reduced role. Despite playing in all 17 games, Hunt saw only 123 carries and put up the lowest yards-per-attempt (3.8) of his career.
This drop-off made not only the Browns pass on Hunt in free agency, but every other team in the league as well. Sure, he's had a few visits, but if franchises truly valued his talent then he wouldn't have walked away empty-handed.
Though Hunt now joins a backfield without Chubb in it, that doesn't mean he's coming in to be the lead dog. Cleveland showed confidence in backup Jerome Ford this offseason to step up with Hunt gone, and so far he's proving them right. His 106-yard outing in Week 2, which included an electric 69-yard run to set up a touchdown, could be the breakout performance that primes him to take over as RB1.
And that's the right move. Ford had an entire offseason's worth of preparation to take on a bigger role within this offense, so he's the clear-cut immediate answer to the backfield question. While Hunt is familiar with the coaching staff and system, he's going to need some time to get his conditioning back after being out of a job since March.
That's why fans shouldn't expect amazing results from Hunt right away. He's coming in as part of the solution, but the early returns on Ford seem to indicate he might be the actual answer to this RB conundrum.
Regardless, adding Hunt to the mix makes this backfield better. Perhaps some friendly competition will help Ford take an even bigger leap with Chubb's long-term future murky at the moment.
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