Nick Chubb is consistently cited as one of the top 5 rushers in the NFL.
He sits among the leaders in yards-per-carry and yards-after-contact each season since entering the league.
And as hard as it is to believe, the Cleveland Browns offense gets a lift when his backup enters the game.
#Browns Stump Mitchell on Kareem Hunt: "He's hungry to play football…I have to teach him to be a little more patient…he could be the best in the league."
— Camryn Justice (@camijustice) August 15, 2022
That’s because his backup is a former NFL rushing champion, Kareem Hunt.
Hunt brings a more reckless and quick-hitting style as a receiver and a runner.
Browns running back coach Stump Mitchell says that Hunt could be even better.
Stump Mitchell says there’s no reason why Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt can’t be the two best running backs in the NFL, given their skillsets, given the scheme, given the offensive line and given himself and Bill Callahan. #Browns
— Hayden Grove (@H_Grove) August 15, 2022
In fact, Mitchell thinks with a little more patience, Hunt and Chubb could be the top 2 running backs in the league.
But does any team really need the top 2 rushers in today’s pass-happy NFL?
And with a pair of excellent backups behind him, would it make sense to trade Kareem Hunt?
Browns Have An Excess Of Rushers
Without a doubt, Cleveland enjoys a surplus of quality running backs.
Behind Chubb and Hunt, they gave a guaranteed deal to D’Ernest Johnson.
Kevin Stefanski’s offense doesn’t skip a beat with Johnson in the game.
And rookie draft pick Jerome Ford shows enough ability to think he’ll be protected with a roster spot.
— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) January 13, 2021
Demetric Felton is a jack-of-all-trade player who brings deception and versatility to the group.
And Cleveland’s offensive line gives practice squad player John Kelly some highlight runs each preseason, too.
Stefanski carried 3 running backs and a fullback in each of his first 2 seasons.
If Ford is deemed not NFL-ready, the team could carry the 4th rusher, especially if Johnny Stanton doubles as the 3rd tight end.
But while they can find spots for all those players, cutting or trading one probably won’t affect the Browns’ offense.
Hunt Trade Would Be Unpopular
Kareem Hunt is a Cleveland-born and bred player, and immensely popular with teammates and fans.
Arguably, he is one of the leaders in the locker room and on the sideline.
Trading such a player would not be popular, to be sure.
But there is little doubt Cleveland gets the best return for Hunt over any other option.
— Dov Kleiman (@NFL_DovKleiman) October 31, 2021
Every NFL team had a chance to sign D’Ernest Johnson risk-free for a minimal salary in free agency.
There were no biters, indicating his trade value is minimal.
Felton can be an exciting player and adding some highlights in preseason might boost interest.
But he is not a potential rushing champion as much as he is a gimmick player.
Hunt could bring back a veteran receiver and/or second-day draft pick from the right team.
Is There a Market For RBs?
Trading players in the preseason is always a challenge.
GMs know some quality players will be victims of numbers and land on the waiver wire.
But Hunt is head-and-shoulders above the other running backs rumored to be available.
He is a former rushing champion and a proven 3-down back.
Look at this angle of Demetric Felton's touchdown 👀pic.twitter.com/rtxpmcG3BV
— Billy Heyen (@BillyHeyen) September 19, 2021
Several teams face relatively precarious running back situations.
Washington is threatening to bench their starter due to fumbles.
Atlanta is using gimmick back Cordarelle Patterson, and if Alvin Kamara is suspended, New Orleans will need help.
Trading Hunt to a Super Bowl contender like Tampa Bay or Buffalo could mitigate the public relations concerns.
And injuries can always create opportunities for Hunt to star in another city.
Why It Makes Sense For Cleveland
There are more important reasons for Cleveland to consider shopping Kareem Hunt around.
Hunt is in the walk year of his latest contract, and it is unlikely the Browns try to extend him.
With less expensive options in Johnson and Ford to back up Chubb, meeting Hunt’s price is no sure thing.
Cleveland also has salary cap issues on the horizon, entering 2023 well over the cap with an incomplete roster.
— NFL Rookie Watch (@NFLRookieWatxh) August 13, 2022
Adding to those concerns, their top 10 contracts cost more to trade or release next season than to play.
Trading Hunt before September saves almost $6 million more to be used on a veteran receiver this year or carried over.
As far as the game plan, D’Ernest Johnson can handle Hunt’s role effectively and proved his value as a spot starter.
Jerome Ford is rapidly learning the pass protection and blocking tricks of his trade and could earn playing time as a rookie.
Trading Hunt opens snaps for the younger players likely to remain with the team in 2023.