Photo Credit: Dawgs By Nature
There have been few times in my sports fandom life that I have felt as conflicted about an acquisition of a player by my favorite team than I do right now. I am a diehard Browns fan, and I haven’t been as happy with the roster or ever looked forward to a season as much as I am right now. And now, I get the news that these Browns have signed an arguably top-5 running back in Kareem Hunt.
Ordinarily, this is a move that I’d be nothing but excited about. On paper, the Browns are already what I consider to be a probable playoff team. But with the addition of Hunt, that probability only goes up- adding one of the most physically talented backs, especially catching out of the backfield, in the league. The combination of him, Nick Chubb, and Duke Johnson is dynamic, eases the workload of all three, and ensures against injuries. Further, the signing is a 1-year deal after which he will be a restricted free agent, so if he does have a bounce-back to his previous form -and stays out of trouble- the Browns will have a chance to match any offer he gets and retain him for the next few years.
However, the reason there is hesitation to be excited, or for me, happy at all about this move, is the same reason Hunt was available to be picked up at all- his domestic violence issue that surfaced earlier this year and led to his swift release from the Chiefs.
Domestic violence is an issue I take extremely seriously, and I believe it is an issue that the NFL does not take seriously enough. I actually wrote an article about just that, a few months ago after the Hunt news first came out.
So to see my team be the one that now employs someone who has been caught up in this issue, it is hard to be as happy about the move as I would. It is important to at least acknowledge Hunt’s vocalized remorse about the situation. While releasing a statement apologizing for the incident and vowing to learn from it was a necessary step to get back into the league, it is still important that he did so.
It is fair to say, also, that we as a society are very willing to push the idea of second chances, and if everyone else can get one, it makes sense to give an NFL player that same second chance. All this being said though, let’s briefly look at the pros and cons of this move.
- Adds one of the premier running backs in the league to an already talented offense
- His last full season, 2017, his rookie year, he led the league in rushing with 1327 yards and made the Pro Bowl
- Takes workload off Nick Chubb and Duke Johnson, one (Johnson) of which has shown himself to be somewhat susceptible to injuries
- At his peak, could possibly be the best running back in the league
- Brings home a player from the Willoughby, Ohio area- a suburb of Cleveland
- Arguably easier to develop self and become a better person when motivated to, and playing football again is the ultimate motivation
- Moral questions with a player who committed a very serious crime only around a year ago, and then immediately lied to an organization about it
- Will take touches away from Nick Chubb and Duke Johnson upon his return- two very productive players
- Possibility of alienating parts of your fanbase, especially women and others who have been affected by domestic violence
- Hunt will have to likely serve a 6+ game suspension
- This could affect the team because he will likely not be able to practice with the team during his suspension, so him coming back midyear with no practice reps could hurt the flow of the team
- Will have to earn the trust of management and teammates
- On the off chance that he comes back but has lost a step, went through the criticism that is sure to come, for no reward
So, as you see, this is a very complicated situation. As a Browns fan, I cannot say I really lean one way or another on this move, for all the reasons listed above. But I do trust John Dorsey, both as a football man and as a judge of character, and I just hope the proper diligence and research was done before making this move- despite how attractive the player might be on the surface.
Please let me know what your thoughts are in the comments!