The Cleveland Browns made a daring move Monday, Feb. 11, by signing former Kansas City Chiefs running back Kareem Hunt to a one-year deal worth up to $1 million.
The head-scratching part isn’t necessarily that he was signed after KC cut him following the surfacing of a video depicting Hunt assaulting a woman. John Dorsey is the general manager of the Browns, and he drafted Hunt in Kansas City. That part at least makes a little sense from the perspective of if anyone should know Hunt’s current character, one can assume it would be Dorsey. We live in a current culture where one mistake tends to define a person’s entire existence, seemingly with no chance of redeeming oneself. While I’m not here to make the case for or against Hunt as a person, redemption is earned through actions, and certain things are overlooked for star football players. Dorsey clearly is comfortable with the direction Hunt is headed, and he isn’t concerned with the PR backlash that will undoubtedly ensue.
We’ve seen several instances of players committing horrific acts — or at least being accused of them — and being given a second chance in the NFL without further incident. We also have seen a one-time mistake be the death knell for a player’s career (see Ray Rice). Circumstances for each situation are different and therefore judged uniquely. Purely from a football perspective, Dorsey sees more upside than risk in the addition of Hunt.
The strangest part of this signing is the timing of it all. The NFL has not announced the duration of Hunt’s suspension as he sits on the commissioner’s exempt list. The safe bet is Hunt will miss the majority of the 2019 season — say, 10 or 12 games. What happens to be the most peculiar element of this story, at least to me, is why even take the chance with all of the positives we witnessed from 2018 rookie Nick Chubb? He was among the best backs in football in the second half of the year, proving he is capable of doing it all.
One aspect to consider is this could simply be a shrewd personnel move by Dorsey to block competition from Hunt’s rights. The public is more likely to understand and accept the signing if it becomes known Dorsey has no intention of allowing Hunt to see the field in 2019. This scenario seems unlikely, yet it isn’t completely worth immediate dismissal.
One could argue Hunt is a worthwhile third-down back given his receiving skills, but where would that leave Duke Johnson, whose contract was extended just last year? The Browns would be liable for $4 million in dead cap space spread over the next three years — hardly punitive, but it’s still worth noting.
Fantasy football outlook
Should Hunt see the field, and Johnson is retained, this could be the deepest backfield in the NFL. As anyone can tell, there is too much guesswork still at play to give any kind of precise assessment for gamers.
Speculation aside, Chubb’s fantasy value has to take a slight hit in the short term. Chubb goes from being a low-end RB1 and reasonable second-round pick to a shaky No. 1 in the second in absolute best-case scenario. A safer viewpoint is he is a risk-reward RB2 somewhere around the late third or early fourth. There will be the lingering specter of Hunt’s presence throughout a suspension, and he then certainly could steal meaningful work if he does play.
Hunt would have low-end RB2 or flex value in a committee approach whenever/if he returns to the field. That is not to say he should be drafted as one, however. Gamers need to take a flier on him merely as a wild roll of the dice. Hunt is just too talented to be ignored, regardless of how one feels about his bid for redemption.
Johnson stands to lose the most from this signing, but he wasn’t much of a fantasy weapon in 2018, even during Freddie Kitchens’ play-calling stint.