This is CLEVELAND, Ohio. Kareem Hunt, who sat out of team drills earlier this month to make his trade request and contract stand, is now fully participating in camp and seems ready to give his all for the Browns, his hometown team, once again this season.
It has been made clear to Hunt by the Browns that they have no intention of trading him as he enters the last year of an extension that will pay him $6.25 million this season. If Deshaun Watson’s suspension from the first six games becomes ten or the full season, they will need him even more.
Run game coordinator Stump Mitchell said this week that Hunt can be the best in the NFL with more patience, but the Browns want to keep him and employ him again as part of a one-two punch with Nick Chubb.
In the event that Hunt leaves for a more lucrative offer elsewhere this summer, the Browns might be eligible for a compensation choice in the fourth round. Hunt held out for two days, but Chubb convinced the Browns to extend his contract when the two of them spoke on the sidelines before Hunt returned to team drills on August 8.
According to Chubb, “he’s my best friend, on and off the field,” and he told NFL Network as much after practice that day. For my own purposes, I need him to be here. “Whatever it takes to keep him here,” they said.
Hunt, now 27, asked the Browns for a contract extension before training camp began so that he could play out the rest of his career with the team. Before the 2018 season, he signed a two-year extension worth up to $13.25 million with the Browns, making him the 15th highest-paid player in the NFL. This contract was signed in February 2019 by former Browns general manager John Dorsey.
During training camp, Hunt and Chubb were seen working together in the backfield, suggesting that the pairing could become more frequent this season. In any case, Hunt provides the Browns with a second No. 1 back when he replaces Chubb. Hunt missed nine games last season due to injuries and COVID-19.
If Watson is still on the field for the Browns in the final weeks, the passing game will get more attention, and Hunt may not get the carries he needs to be the No. 1 back in 2023 and earn the associated salary.
Whatever the reason, the Browns have no intention of releasing him and he is putting in the same kind of effort he did last year in training camp. This includes plenty of explosive runs, post-practice sprints, and friendly banter with the other running backs and Mitchell on the sidelines.
— Fred Greetham (@FredGreetham9) August 18, 2022
The Browns have always intended for Jacoby Brissett to start in place of Watson until he returns from his suspension for violating the personal conduct policy. Brissett signed a one-year deal with the team in March worth $4.65 million. At the time, they estimated that Watson’s suspension would last between 6 and 8 games, but they were still optimistic that Brissett could keep them competitive.
The Browns have become confident in Brissett’s ability to execute Kevin Stefanski’s offensive scheme and have given him a chance to start as training camp has progressed. He’s a smart, mobile quarterback who connects well with his receivers.
The Browns are confident in Brissett’s ability to lead this talented team to victory and success even if Watson is suspended for 10 games or more. Indeed, many still consider him to be preferable to Jimmy Garoppolo.
Where, therefore, would Garoppolo fit into this scenario? Although the Browns have shown no interest in Garoppolo so far, they might reconsider if Watson is lost for the season. Before he had surgery in March to repair a torn capsule in his throwing shoulder, the Browns completed their research on him, but ultimately decided that he wouldn’t be a significant enough upgrade over Baker Mayfield to warrant a trade.
To that end, the Browns are currently debating whether or not to improve from Josh Dobbs, who has only attempted 17 NFL passes as Brissett’s backup thus far, to a more experienced quarterback. On August 30th, they will go through the remaining applications to see if any promising backups emerge.
For comparison, the Panthers are paying Baker Mayfield $10.5 million to play this season (and he will likely start against his former team in the season opener on September 11 in Carolina), so the Browns won’t spend much on a temporary No. 2 and would likely only be interested in Garoppolo if the 49ers cut him and they could get him cheap.
With only his first week’s base salary of $24.2 million guaranteed, the 49ers have little incentive to release him until they see whether another team has a starting job open. Garoppolo, who has only garnered backup interest thus far, is eager for a starting opportunity.
He should be able to increase his home run total from last season now that he has had surgery to repair a ruptured capsule and can throw freely again. Even if he gets cut, there is a small chance he may join the Browns this year.
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