The timing of the Cleveland Browns‘ bye week was perfect for a series of changes and adjustments.
With rumors swirling around the team as the NFL trade deadline expired, fans and players waited for some news.
Most were certain the extra time off would be filled with ideas on how to use new players and replace those who left.
But the biggest news was the Browns emerged intact from the rush of trades announced yesterday.
— MoreForYouCleveland (@MoreForYou_CLE) November 1, 2022
Among the most interesting non-moves was the decision to sit tight on running back, Kareem Hunt.
We might never know how heavily other GMs engaged with Andrew Berry about the possibility of a deal.
But when Nyheim Hines went to Buffalo late in the afternoon, it seemed the door was closed to a Hunt exit.
And Kevin Stefanski announced his staff is busy “self-scouting” in search of alternate adjustments.
Why Would Hunt Want To Be Traded?
At $6 million, the Browns #2 running back is probably among the best-paid backups in the NFL.
But he is a former NFL rushing champion with a lot left in his tank.
If Cleveland wasn’t going to re-sign him, maybe he could win a more featured role elsewhere before free agency.
His usage was noticeably reduced over the past few weeks.
Kareem Hunt remains a Cleveland Brown– and I for one am here for it. #Browns
— Hayden Grove (@H_Grove) November 1, 2022
And if he is going to cop a starting-level salary as a free agent, he needs more exposure.
Age will work against him, even though his relatively-scant usage over the years keeps him fresh.
But starting gigs are not widely available, especially with a stellar 2-23 free-agent group and another draft class to compete with.
Hunt might be forced to take a prove-it deal for 2023 and still have to battle for a role.
What Happens This Season?
Nick Chubb headlines the league’s top rushing attack.
And we won’t know until Week 10 if Stefanski plans to make more use of his second rusher.
Hunt’s 11 carries and 4 targets only seemed like a lot in comparison to the previous 2 weeks.
But they were right on the average of Hunt’s touches over the first 5 weeks of 2022.
#Browns Andrew Berry on Kareem Hunt: "All Kareem’s done since August is work hard and put the team first."
— Camryn Justice (@camijustice) November 2, 2022
And Chubb’s 25 touches were also a season-high.
Cleveland put Hunt and Chubb on the field together for 6 snaps, the most since their 8 shared plays in Week 1.
Stefanski used an extra-heavy dose of rushing to pull off the upset of the Bengals.
And Hunt’s best bet for more touches is if his head coach continues that pattern in pursuit of a playoff berth.
Will Hunt Be a Brown in 2023?
Fans shouldn’t let Hunt’s survival past the trade deadline fool them.
It is still a long shot he returns to the team for another season.
Cleveland drafted his heir apparent in Jerome Ford, consistently compared to Hunt by college scouts.
And even if D’Ernest Johnson joins Hunt in a free agency exit, Andrew Berry will find inexpensive fill-in rushers.
.@Browns #KareemHunt is a talented player that has great contact balance and refuses to be tackled. Welcomed across the league into any backfield. He makes your team better #BsldysBreakdowns pic.twitter.com/O3YJoWYjoM
— Brian Baldinger (@BaldyNFL) November 1, 2022
Hunt is good enough to be a featured back elsewhere and wants a shot to show it.
Even if he doesn’t cash out right away, a starting opportunity will be too much to pass up.
The most likely way he returns to Cleveland is if he takes a backup’s salary and role.
And his best fans secretly hope he does better than that wherever he goes.