For the Browns, Kareem Hunt’s talents seem to outweigh his off-field issues
Browns general manager John Dorsey gave several explanations for signing running back Kareem Hunt on Monday. But he never quite got to the heart of the matter.
In 35 minutes of interviews with Cleveland-area media, Dorsey said he’s “willing to help a man from a second chance moving forward,” and that “my faith tells me that.’’ Dorsey said the team did “extensive research” on Hunt’s situation, and described him as “extremely remorseful.”
“I’ve always believed that if a person wants to better themselves and be a better person, I’m willing to give them a chance,” Dorsey said via the Cleveland Plain-Dealer. “I truly believe he’ll be a better man today than he was yesterday.”
That’s great and all, but Dorsey is not giving Hunt a second chance simply because he has a big heart.
The fact of the matter is that Hunt is only 23 years old, and has scored 25 touchdowns and gained 2,984 total yards in two NFL seasons. And the Browns decided that Hunt’s incident wasn’t quite as bad as Ray Rice’s, and whatever negative press this signing generates will be offset by the fact that they just signed a very good football player for cheap money.
Hunt, who was released by the Chiefs in November after video emerged of him kicking and shoving a woman in a Cleveland hotel last February, reportedly will earn $1 million on a one-year deal with the Browns, though that number will be reduced by however many games he is eventually suspended by the NFL.
The NFL is still investigating this incident, and Hunt could be looking at a suspension of at least six games.
“This happens to be one of those situations where, at the end of the day, the organization was comfortable moving forward with signing this player,” Dorsey said, via the team’s website.
While Dorsey had to answer for the move, the Hunt signing has the blessing of the team’s owners, Jimmy and Dee Haslam, who is a member of the NFL’s Conduct Committee.
Dorsey knows Hunt well. He was the Chiefs general manager in 2017 when they drafted Hunt in the third round.
Dorsey used all the right words in his news conferences. The Browns have a “zero tolerance” policy with Hunt (though they found enough tolerance to sign him). Dorsey noted that Hunt has been undergoing alcohol and anger management counseling, and that he will be doing plenty of community service in Cleveland, though that is often included as a requirement in NFL contracts.
The incident from last February, in which the woman declined to press charges, was “egregious,” the team was “appalled,” and Hunt’s spot on the team is “by no means . . . a guarantee. He’s got to earn the trust of everybody within this organization, with everybody within the community of Cleveland.’’
But the Browns’ actions speak louder than Dorsey’s words. The Browns decided that all of the off-field issues swirling around Hunt — he is currently being investigated by the NFL for three incidents that occurred last year — matter less than Hunt’s 4.7-yard career rushing average and his ability to stretch defenses in the passing game.
Dorsey acknowledged that he didn’t try to speak with the woman involved in the incident, as has become all too common with the NFL, nor has he reached out to any Cleveland-area domestic violence groups.
But Dorsey believes in Hunt, of course.
“He owns up to it, he admits it,” Dorsey said. “He understands the magnitude of it and he wants to prove to people that it was an isolated mistake that will never happen again.’’
A marginal player wouldn’t be getting this second chance. But Hunt led the NFL with 1,327 rushing yards as a rookie in 2017. He was well on his way to a Pro Bowl berth in 2018 before being released in November, scoring 14 touchdowns in 11 games.
A more telling comment from Dorsey came when he said, “We always talk about having competitive depth.”
Competitive depth? No kidding. The Browns offense now looks loaded, with Hunt joining Nick Chubb and Duke Johnson in the backfield, and Jarvis Landry, Antonio Callaway, and David Njoku in the passing game. The Browns are looking to surround ascending quarterback Baker Mayfield with as much talent as they can get.
Dorsey is all about improving the football team. It’s the same reason he drafted Tyreek Hill in 2016, despite Hill being kicked out of Oklahoma State for attacking his pregnant girlfriend. The charges were eventually expunged after three years of probation and anger management, and Hill has not gotten in trouble in three NFL seasons.
Giving Hunt a second chance so soon might not be the best way to show the world that you take violence against women seriously. It also might not be the best way to address Hunt’s anger management issues.
And bringing Hunt back to his hometown of Cleveland may not be the best situation for him, either. Hunt will be near many of the bad influences of his youth. His father was arrested for drug trafficking in suburban Cleveland Jan. 25, and admitted to selling marijuana and crack cocaine.
But Hunt can gain 4.7 yards per carry and help lead the Browns back to the playoffs. For Dorsey and the Browns, that appears to be what matters most.