Kareem Hunt is back home.
The running back is returning to the Cleveland Browns on a one-year deal worth up to $4 million, NFL Network Insiders Ian Rapoport and Tom Pelissero reported. The team later officially announced the signing.
A product of nearby Willoughby South High School in Ohio, Hunt spent the entire 2023 offseason waiting out the market for an opportunity to play a significant role somewhere in the NFL. Though he made multiple visits to interested teams during training camp, such a role never materialized -- until Monday night.
Hunt was expected to be a sought-after talent in 2023, even after tallying just 854 rushing yards combined between 2021 and 2022. But as the market value of running backs notably cratered over the summer, Hunt was left without an ideal path forward. Cleveland, seemingly set on moving forward without Hunt, didn't express notable interest in him. After Hunt requested a trade from the Browns on two occasions in 2022 alone due to disagreements over his usage in head coach Kevin Stefanski's offense, it seemed their relationship was permanently damaged.
An unfortunate injury to Hunt's close friend and former teammate suddenly changed everything for both Hunt and the Browns. Now, they're back together, and Hunt's role might end up looking a little different than in past years.
Cleveland quickly realized just how much they were depending on Chubb once the elite runner exited Monday night with what can only be described as an incredibly gruesome knee injury. In stepped second-year back Jerome Ford, suddenly tasked with carrying a Browns offense that hasn't yet proven itself capable of being a pass-first unit.
On first glance, Ford put together a very nice night, rushing 16 times for 106 yards. But one carry accounted for 69 of those yards, meaning his average per rush on the other 15 attempts came in at 2.5 yards.
That's not how the Browns intend to run the football, Chubb or no Chubb. It became clear they wouldn't be able to proceed with the just likes of Ford and the recently acquired Pierre Strong, especially with the continued struggles of quarterback Deshaun Watson weighing down their offense. Knowing Hunt was available and still living in the area, Cleveland made one of the most predictable phone calls in recent memory, and in less than 24 hours, bygones were bygones between Hunt and his hometown team.
He might not take lead back snaps on a short week against the Titans, Stefanski told reporters on Tuesday that Ford was the new lead back, but Hunt likely will be expected to carry a larger share of the load than he ever did while sharing the backfield with Chubb. We'll see if he's up to the task.