This season, Cleveland Browns running back Kareem Hunt enters the final year of a two-year extension signed back in 2020.
We've signed @Kareemhunt7 to a 2-year contract extension!
Details » https://t.co/E3cN33Jpcf pic.twitter.com/FX99ZNfwhu
— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) September 8, 2020
Since signing his name on the dotted line, Hunt has formed a formidable one-two backfield punch with teammate Nick Chubb.
His 2021 season, however, was marred by a calf injury that forced him to sit out over half the season.
In eight games last season, Hunt found the end zone five times with a career-high in yards per attempt (4.9).
Factor that in with the fact, per Spotrac, that the team has only had to pay out $6 million for Hunt in each of the past two seasons and the Browns have a fairly enviable situation on their hands.
But should the Browns extend him once more?
Hunt has been one of the league’s better backups to one of the league’s better starters in Chubb.
But it’s entirely possible Hunt looks at this situation as his last to earn starter-caliber money.
He’s already 26 and has logged five seasons, and his window as a potential starter might be closing fast.
And when the cliff comes for running backs, it comes hard.
The 26-year-old is also playing football at a time when the running back position is far less valued than previous eras.
The future of the league for RBs appears to be either young stars or consistent free-agent acquisitions.
Every year, a handful of backfield talent is readily available in the draft or free agency.
And it isn’t as though teams are clamoring to spend high first-round picks on running backs anymore.
Jonathan Taylor, a pro bowler in his second season and one of the league’s best backs, was a second-round pick.
In a curious twist, the Browns actually traded the pick that would become Taylor to the Colts for a second-rounder (Grant Delpit) and fifth-rounder (Nick Harris).
Cordarelle Patterson, who had a resurgent season for the Falcons, was scooped up by Atlanta in the offseason.
As long as the team feels comfortable with Chubb going forward, there’s no sense in extending Hunt.
The front office would be in a far better place by letting the season shake out and seeing how much productivity Hunt has left.
After that evaluation, it can explore the free agency market or draft field.
The team also has a third-string RB in D’Ernest Johnson that looks like he could be an excellent backup option.
Behind both Chubb and Hunt, Johnson still managed three TDs on nearly 675 combined rushing and receiving yards.
But at the same time, it shouldn’t sound like we’re administering last rites to Hunt’s career.
He forces defenses to stay honest every down, even when starter Chubb is on the sidelines getting oxygen.
Nor do the Browns feature a front office that is shy of retaining talent.
#Browns Andrew Berry contract extensions of note:
Edge Myles Garrett
RB Nick Chubb
RB Kareem Hunt
RG Wyatt Teller
LG Joel Bitonio
QB Deshaun Watson
CB Denzel Ward
Talent retention is absolutely crucial, especially for the above that are among the best at their positions.
— Cody Suek (@CodySuek) April 18, 2022
Look for this to develop into one of the Browns’ storylines as the season progresses.
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