Cleveland Browns running back Kareem Hunt was floated by Mile High Report Editor Tim Lynch as a potential Broncos free target who could fill a “sneaky” need for Denver during the 2023 season. The Broncos rushing attack was 12th in the NFL in total yards but 18th in yards per carry in 2022, and as Lynch points out, Javonte Williams is no guarantee to be the same player he was before he tore his ACL/LCL against the Raiders on October 2.
Thus, the need for a rusher who’d be willing to be part of a platoon could be filled by the 27-year-old Hunt, who rushed for 30 first downs in 2022. “Hunt has proven he is a perfect kind of running back by committee type player and if Javonte Williams isn’t ready to go Week 1 then Hunt could be the veteran 1-2 punch to pair with either Latavius Murray or a rookie runner,” Lynch wrote.
The biggest question about what Hunt’s role would be in Denver would be answered by what the Broncos do at the draft. By way of the Sean Payton trade with the Saints and Russell Wilson trade with the Seahawks, Denver won’t have a first-round pick, but the No. 67 and No. 68 picks, along with a fourth, fifth, and sixth-rounder, will be at their disposal.
George Paton Expects Javonte Williams Back By Week 1
Broncos General Manager George Paton gave a shocking update to reporters on the injured knee of Javonte Williams at the NFL Combine on February 28: he expects the 2021 second-round draft pick to be back by Week 1 of the 2023 season.
“I think he’s on track,” Paton said. “I don’t want to put a date on it, but he’s out there jogging. He’s working his butt off. He’s rehabbing. Javonte — they anticipate he would be ready for the start of the season. We’ll have a plan. We’ll have another back or two to be ready if he can’t go [Week 1].”
It’s possible Williams is back by that time considering the average recovery time for an ACL tear is nine months, while a LCL tear’s timetable is a third of that. But a serious injury so early in his career could cost Williams his longevity if his injury isn’t properly handled by the Broncos medical staff.
Saquon Barkley Called a Luxury Broncos Can’t Afford
Speaking of running backs who’ve recovered from major knee surgery, Saquon Barkley is hitting the free agent market after a major bounce-back year from the Giants running back two years removed from a September 20, 2020 ACL tear against the Bears. With Daniel Jones demanding as much as $48 million and actively working to reach an agreement with New York per the New York Post’s Paul Schwartz, Barkley could be squeezed out of the Giants’ plans if he doesn’t take a discount with the team that drafted him in 2018.
Lynch wrote in a separate piece for the Mile High Report that Barkley is “a luxury piece the Broncos can’t afford.” “I do think the Broncos are going to add to their backfield through free agency, but I do not see them dropping top dollar on a back like Barkley,” he wrote. “His skill set makes him an ideal fit for Sean Payton’s offense, but again, he is a luxury the Broncos cannot afford at this time.”
Hunt’s price tag would likely come at a fraction of Barkley’s, and Latavius Murray would likely appreciate not having one of the league’s premiere running backs taking touches away from him.