Rumors are swirling around the Cleveland Browns that Kareem Hunt could possibly be on the move. If that were to happen who would take over his role on this team?
The Cleveland Browns have one of the deepest running back rooms in the NFL and certainly the deepest in the AFC North. Currently, on their roster, they have Nick Chubb, Kareem Hunt, D’Ernest Johnson, Demetric Felton, John Kelly, Jerome Ford, and Johnny Stanton. Earlier in the off-season, the Browns re-signed running back D’Ernest Johnson on a one-year deal worth $2.43 million with $900K in guarantees. One of the most significant factors in the decision to keep D’Ernest Johnson was that Kareem Hunt missed nine games last season, and the Browns relied on Johnson as his replacement, who played in all 17 games.
Johnson had 100 carries for 534 yards with three touchdowns last season. He achieved 5.3 yards per carry with an average of 31.4 yards per game. His PFF rushing grade was an outstanding 90.6. He is a reliable back at catching, with 19 receptions for 137 yards and 7.2 yards per reception, with a catch percentage of 76.0%. He shined with his many opportunities last season, and the Browns happily signed him on a cheap deal.
Jerome Ford was selected by the Browns in the fifth round of the 2022 Draft with pick 156 and played in the Browns’ preseason opener against the Jacksonville Jaguars. He had ten carries for 57 yards, 5.7 yards per carry, and a rushing touchdown. In addition, he had four receptions for 45 yards, with an average of 11.2 yards per reception and a receiving touchdown. It’s no understatement to say that Ford was motoring against the Jaguars and is an exhilarating prospect.
With Nick Chubb as the starter and Johnson and Ford as competent backups, the question must be asked- do the Browns need Kareem Hunt, and should he be traded to a team that is short of a starting running back? Kareem Hunt signed a new deal before last season: a two-year, $12 million contract, including $5.5 million guaranteed and an average annual salary of $6 million. In 2022, Hunt will earn a base salary of $1.35 million with a roster bonus of $4.9 million while carrying a cap hit of $6.25 million. In 2023 he becomes an Unrestricted Free Agent. The Browns will likely keep four running backs on their roster, and we must assume that Johnny Stanton is headed for the practice squad. Chubb, Johnson, and Ford are locked in for the Browns’ running back room, leaving one spot between Hunt and Felton.
Demetric Felton is cheap and did well with limited carries as a running back. He is versatile as a kick/punt returner/special teams player and as a wide receiver. He had only seven carries as a running back for 24 yards with 3.4 yards per attempt and a PFF grade of 62.5. He did very well as a receiver, with 181 yards on 18 receptions, two touchdowns, and a PFF grade of 78.4. He made 227 yards on punt returns with 7.1 yards/return and 172 yards on kick returns with 19.1 yards/return. It could well be that Felton is used as running back, a receiver, and KR/PR now that Jakeem Grant is injured, who was destined to be the primary punt/kick returner.
The deciding factor suggesting that Kareem Hunt will be traded, aside from his request to be traded, is that the Browns have issues with wide receiver depth. Amari Cooper, Donovan Peoples-Jones, David Bell, Anthony Schwartz, Michael Woods II, and Demetric Felton is a room that has one clear WR1 and many hopefuls. Kareem Hunt is a trade asset, and the Browns will not only be able to trade for a WR but also gain an early draft pick.
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