The Cleveland Browns took a gamble of sorts, more in the public relations department than anything else, when they made the decision last year to sign Kareem Hunt to a contract, albeit without guarantees. After leading the league in rushing as a rookie in 2017 with the Kansas City Chiefs, he was off to another great start the following year before footage was released of him kicking and pushing a woman in a hotel lobby.
The Chiefs released him mid-season, and he unsurprisingly remained unsigned thereafter. Cleveland had ties to him through general manager John Dorsey, who held the same role in Kansas City when Hunt was drafted. That likely played a big part in their willingness to take on that risk, knowing that he would be suspended when he started the year anyway.
He would go on to play eight games in 2019, rushing for 179 yards on 43 carries with two rushing touchdowns, plus 285 yards on 37 receptions and another touchdown, with a limited role behind Pro Bowler Nick Chubb.
A couple of weeks ago, Hunt was pulled over for a routine traffic stop, and admitted to police that, at that time, he would not pass a drug test. Yesterday, Browns owner Jimmy Haslam addressed the situation, saying that “it’s not good”, and that “what he did is not acceptable”.
The Browns originally agreed to sign him with the stipulation that he consistently be on his best behavior, but this was not his first ‘incident’ of some form or fashion since he was signed with the team. They did not take any action then, and they almost surely will not take any action now.
They already saw what he can do on the field, and they’re likely salivating over the prospect of having him and Chubb for a full season. “If Kareem can lay out and follow the expectations we’ve laid out for him”, Haslam said yesterday, than they would like to keep him. But he has already failed to do that.
Dorsey is gone, replaced by Andrew Berry, the youngest general manager in the NFL, who did spend a couple of years in the organization prior to getting the job recently. He was not here, however, when they originally signed him.
“We want guys who are going to be smart, tough and accountable both on and off the field”, Berry told reporters yesterday. “Kareem understands that, and we’re looking forward to him meshing with our culture moving forward”.
Hunt will actually be a free agent in March, because he was only signed to a one-year contract. They claimed they would have a zero tolerance policy for him, which he has already violated. We’ll see how much on-field productivity outweighs self-imposed principles then.