CLEVELAND, Ohio – Kareem Hunt watched the Browns give contract extensions to fellow running back Nick Chubb along with Denzel Ward, Joel Bitonio, David Njoku and Wyatt Teller in the last 12 months.
There was also the huge trade for Deshaun Watson, along with the record-breaking $230 million guaranteed contract the Browns delivered to the quarterback.
Hunt probably was thinking, “Where’s mine?”
He has a $6.25 million contract for 2022.
As cleveland.com’s Mary Kay Cabot reported: “Hunt has a base salary of $1.350 million, and received a roster bonus of $1.5 million. The balance of his contract comes in the form of $200,000 for each game he’s active, up to $3.4 million…none of those per-game bonuses are guaranteed.”
Hunt’s contract is structured that way because he came to the Browns after being cut from Kansas City because of an ugly incident where he hit a woman. Hunt was never charged criminally, but received an eight-game suspension from the NFL after signing with the Browns in 2019.
Because of his problems in Kansas City, the Browns gave him “make-good deals.” This information comes from overthecap.com:
2019: $1.1 million (not guaranteed). He was paid $550,000 because he played only eight games due to the suspension.
2020: He received a raise to $3.3 million, not guaranteed. He was paid the full amount.
2021: He signed a two-year, $12 million deal with $5 million guaranteed. The rest came from being active for games, etc.
The Browns gave Hunt incentives to stay out of trouble and perform well. So far, he has done that when healthy.
But in 2021, he missed nine games – seven with injuries, two with COVID. He rushed for 386 yards (4.9 average) and 5 TDs in eight games. He also caught 22 passes.
Hunt is in camp with the Browns, but did not take part in team drills on Friday and Saturday. He also reportedly asked the team for a trade, according to Cabot.
A trade request is OK. A few players do it each season. Njoku was the latest, and he ended up signing an extension with the Browns.
GM Andrew Berry doesn’t worry much about players wanting to be traded. He does want them to fully prepare for the season.
Hunt wisely returned to business as usual, running sprints with the team and participating in full practice on Sunday. Hunt has always been a hard worker with a good attitude. Fans should not judge him harshly. The Willoughby South product is 27 and worried about his future.
He knows Chubb is the main running back. He watched the Browns draft promising Cincinnati running back Jerome Ford and re-sign a solid veteran in D’Ernest Johnson.
The odds of Hunt receiving a lucrative long-term extension with the Browns are close to zero.
SOME BACKGROUND ON HUNT
Some other things probably bothering Hunt:
1. Most people with contracts don’t like to be in the final season with their employer not interested in extending them. It can create insecurity. Of course, the average person doesn’t have a contract. Also many in the NFL are on one-year deals – such as Jadeveon Clowney, who is a productive player.
2. Hunt wants a chance to be a featured back – and get paid. After three years with Chubb, he knows that won’t happen. That’s especially true after Chubb signed his three-year, $36 million extension ($20 million guaranteed) last summer.
3. He wants a raise. He’s 27 and knows the life span of running backs can be short.
But what Hunt needs to do is establish that he’s healthy and play well. That can either help his trade value or set him up for a good contract at the end of the season as a free agent.
The Browns will need Hunt, especially if Watson is out for a while with a suspension. When healthy and focused, Hunt is a powerful running back, an effective receiver and a good blocker.
The Browns have a lot of options at running back besides Hunt as backups to Chubb. Johnson started two games and rushed for 100 yards each time. Ford has a chance to be a contributor right away, especially catching passes out of the backfield.
But Hunt can make the Browns better, and a good year will certainly make things better for Hunt in the long run.
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