Kareem Hunt to Browns: How he fits, status with NFL and more

BEREA, Ohio — Cleveland Browns general manager John Dorsey believes in second chances, so he’ll give running back Kareem Hunt the chance to reset his career with the team.

Dorsey said Hunt has to earn the trust of the team and the city, and nothing is guaranteed.

The Kansas City Chiefs released Hunt after a video surfaced of him shoving and kicking a young woman in February 2018 outside his residence in Cleveland.

The NFL placed Hunt on the commissioner’s exempt list shortly before he was released. The league will continue its investigation into this incident and two others involving Hunt that took place in 2018.

Here’s a look at where Hunt stands, and what his addition means.

What is Hunt’s official status with the NFL and the team?

Now that he has signed a one-year contract with the Browns, Hunt again will be placed on the commissioner’s exempt list. While he is on that list, Hunt cannot practice or be with the team.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell had this to say about the case during Super Bowl week: “Kareem Hunt, I think, everyone knows that he’s under investigation. He is a free agent. If he is signed by a club, the clubs understand that he will go on the commissioner’s exempt list at that point in time until the discipline process has concluded — whether there is discipline or not discipline, when we finish the investigation and make a determination. There has been a tremendous amount of progress in that investigation.”

When do the Browns expect a decision on a suspension?

Dorsey said he hopes to have a resolution within two weeks, but ESPN’s Dan Graziano reported that a source had said the discipline process is “still ongoing and nowhere near done.” It is important to keep Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston in mind. In June, the NFL recommended a suspension, but the NFL Players Association worked with the league to negotiate a three-game ban. Hunt’s case could follow a similar track, with the league making a recommendation and the union and league negotiating a final agreement. At this point, the league has not gotten to the point of a recommendation.

Can Hunt take part in offseason workouts?

He cannot participate in offseason workouts, practices or preseason games until a final decision on a suspension is made. At that point, Hunt comes off the exempt list, and his discipline begins the first game of the season.

If he is suspended, when would it take effect?

The first game of the 2019 season. His punishment would begin Week 1 and last the number of games of the suspension.

Why sign him now?

There was no rush to sign Hunt, though had the Browns waited, other teams might have taken him off the market. Obviously, if he’s going to be on the team, the Browns would like him around for OTAs and minicamp, but Dorsey said the timing was more happenstance than anything. “I felt, we felt very comfortable after doing all our research that we were OK with this moving forward,” Dorsey said. “And I was OK with that.”

What is Hunt’s contract status?

He signed a one-year deal, which means if he gains an accrued season in 2019, he will be a restricted free agent after the season. If that happens, the Browns would be able to match any offers received from another team. To gain the accrued season, Hunt would have to be on the 53-man roster for 10 games. If he doesn’t get the accrued season, he would be an exclusive rights free agent, which ties him to the Browns in 2020. Essentially, by signing him now, the Browns will own Hunt’s rights for two seasons.

Does this crowd the Browns’ running back room?

Yes. “That means you’ll have good competitive depth in training camp,” Dorsey said. Competitive depth, though, does not always work in the season. The Browns have Nick Chubb, who ran for 996 yards as a rookie, and Duke Johnson Jr., who signed a three-year contract extension in June. Both were valuable contributors the final eight games of the season after the move was made to put Freddie Kitchens, now head coach, in as offensive coordinator. Hunt and Johnson can be used in a variety of ways, but teams have a hard time finding the carries and snaps for three backs. Carlos Hyde was the lead back in the first six games in 2018. When the Browns decided Chubb had to play, Hyde was traded to Jacksonville.

What does this mean for Chubb?

On the surface, it might not seem to affect him much given he’s the Browns’ starting back, but Hunt started 27 consecutive games in Kansas City, and as a rookie in 2017 led the NFL in rushing with 1,327 yards. Hunt’s addition could have a large impact on Chubb’s carries, although Kitchens and new offensive coordinator Todd Monken should be able to find enough snaps for both.

Does this make Johnson expendable?

Dorsey answered that question this way: “Duke Johnson is a fine football player. But what it does is you have three very quality, really four quality individuals. [Dontrell Hilliard is the fourth.] You have three veterans on there now. I don’t think it makes [Johnson] expendable yet. What you have to do is you have to go back and research your options and see moving forward what’s best for the organization.” Obviously the word that jumped out was “yet.”

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