Hunt was coming off a down year but was still expected to have some suitors when he hit free agency. Spotrac estimated his free agent contract value at two years and $14 million. So far, it’s been mostly crickets for Hunt.
Hunt finished last season with 468 yards on 123 carries, with his overall effectiveness as a change of pace to Nick Chubb diminishing. His per-carry average of 3.8 was the worst of his career and his opportunities tapered off towards the end of the year. He had more than five carries just once over the final five games.
Hunt is from Ohio and embraced playing for his hometown team. However, Cleveland.com’s Terry Pluto doesn’t see a spot being reserved for Hunt, with the team ready to move in a new direction at running back.
“The Browns want to break in Jerome Ford in the Hunt role. They believe Ford brings extra value because they like him as a kickoff return man. Hunt is 27. One theory in the NFL is running backs in their late 20s are in decline. That’s the view of Hunt. He’s not coming back to Cleveland,” Pluto wrote.
Browns Insider: Kareem Hunt Return in ‘Never Say Never’ Category
A reunion between Hunt and the Browns seems very unlikely. However, if the price is right — and it would have to be very low — there could be a world where Hunt returns and tries to put together a stronger year before hitting free agency again.
Cleveland.com Browns insider Mary Kay Cabot doesn’t see it as a likely situation but didn’t slam the door shut on Hunt coming back after striking out in free agency.
“I don’t see Kareem Hunt coming back here, but you can once again he’s in the ‘Never Say Never’ category,” Cabot said during a recent Q&A video. “If he’s still out there and can be had at a bargain basement price and wants to come back — and Nick wants him back — anything can still happen in that regard. I wouldn’t completely rule it out. I never felt like it was front burner or something that was realistically going to happen. But the longer it goes, you just never know.”
Browns Will Continue to Showcase Nick Chubb
Hunt may be gone but there’s no question about the lead back in Cleveland. The Browns still have Chubb and he’s proven that he can be the workhorse when called upon. He’s coming off his four-consecutive Pro Bowl season, rushing for 1,525 yards and 12 touchdowns.
“Nick’s a major part of our offense, always will be,” Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski said at the NFL Annual Meeting in Phoenix. “He was I thought very productive last season and had a good amount of attempts. You’re always trying to get the best version of Nick. So that’s always part of our plan, to make sure he’s fresh for a 17-game season plus. Nick will always be a big part of our offense.”
Chubb is determined to turn things around with the Browns, which he expressed in a tweet during the Super Bowl.
“Tired of watching,” Chubb said.
The Browns are +2,800 to win the Super Bowl, per DraftKings, a number that has come down after some strong offseason additions.