The offseason drama and turmoil in Cleveland will obviously carry over into the regular season. DeShaun Watson’s suspension was split last week at the same pace over six games suspensionthat existed appealed from the NFL. Now one of Cleveland’s primary offensive weapons, Kareem Hunt, is not only in training camp, but also requesting a trade.
Mary Kay Cabot’s Cleveland.com reports that the Browns have denied Hunt’s initial request, but that stance may change as we head into the regular season. This contract dispute with Hunt could be seen by many as a distraction as the preseason begins. And knowing Cleveland, it probably will be.
Hunt’s request throws a huge wrench into Cleveland’s offensive game. The Browns have built their offense around a two-turn back system the past two years. During the 2020 season, Hunt and Nick Chump split up, moving the ball almost down the middle. Chubb carried the rock 190 times and Hunt 198 times.
Cleveland entered the playoffs in 2020 for the first time since 2002, riding on its two current backs. The Browns have already shown they will do anything to win by trading Watson and all the scrutiny he deserved that came with it. While Cleveland has denied Hunt’s trade request, it might not be a bad idea to go ahead and grant him his wish, especially if you don’t plan on cashing him out anytime soon.
If the Browns cave and refuse to pay Hunt, then they might get the best offer for his services. Part of that could be those waiting to hear about the league’s appeal of Watson’s six-game suspension. Cleveland would be in a very difficult position if the NFL’s appeal is successful and Watson’s suspension becomes 12 games or possibly the entire season.
Sure, they could play Jacoby Brissett, but many believe this Browns team could be back in the playoff hunt again this year. Yet, without a proven starting quarterback, those plans could quickly evaporate. However, there is a proven QB on the market. The one who just goes out and wins and leads his team to the NFC title game in two of the last three seasons.
Jimmy freaking Garoppolo. Why not? Like HuntingGaroppolo is also in his last year agreement. The money in each footballer’s contract is very different, so we will have to work it out. But if there’s one thing we know most about 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan, it’s that he likes to run the ball. With Trey Lance taking over in San Francisco as QB1, the Niners are open and looking to trade Jimmy G. I think that makes perfect sense on the field.
Of course, this scenario only works if Watson misses most or all of the 2022 season with a suspension. Hunt is still fairly young (27) and has spent most of his career running from committees. In his three years with Cleveland, Hunt has just 319 rushing attempts. Some of that is due to injury, but more of it is his split with Chubb.
When you compare that to a running back like Ezekiel Elliot (26) in Dallas, it’s night and day. Elliott rushed over 300 times in three of his first six years in the league, and we’ve all seen his decline over the past two seasons. Elliott carried the ball 322 times during his rookie campaign alone. Hunt has barely made it through three years in Cleveland, so he should be pretty fresh compared. He averaged nearly five yards per carry last year, which was his most since his rookie year in Kansas City.
If I’m the Browns and Watson goes out this season, then I pick up the phone, call John Lynch and offer Hunt for Jimmy G. Obviously, the 49ers will likely request picks along with Hunt, but Cleveland still has a few picks left and should be willing to accommodate. I’ve never been Garoppolo’s biggest fan, but heck, at a certain point, you just can’t ignore the results.
What Jimmy G does on the court isn’t pretty, but he wins. And that’s supposed to be the point here, the win. Let’s not forget that the Browns acquired Amari Cooper in the offseason via a trade from the Cowboys. He made Dak Prescott look great at times and could do the same for Garoppolo in this offense. Plus, he would hand off to Chubb in the backfield.
For now, I think the Browns are just waiting to see what happens with Watson. If there’s less than 10 games left after the call up, then there’s no reason to trade Jimmy G and they’d probably want to keep Hunt in Cleveland anyway. But if the appeal is successful and Watson is just gone, you now have a valuable piece of trade in Hunt and can proceed accordingly.
This is a crazy situation the Browns are in, but it’s only fitting, given their history. There are a few franchises that I would feel confident could navigate these choppy waters, but the Browns are not one of them.