Kareem Hunt proves that not all homecomings are happy

In February 2019, Kareem Hunt headed home. Acquired by the Cleveland Browns, the explosive running back returned to his Ohio roots with the intention of being a key cog in a machine that would get the Dawg Pound roaring again.

Two seasons with the Kansas City Chiefs had delivered 26 touchdowns and a breakout rookie campaign in which he rushed for over 1,300 yards during the regular season. With Nick Chubb alongside him at the FirstEnergy Stadium, rivals were advised to strap themselves in for a rough ride.

Blockbuster

It is safe to say that things have not played out as planned for any one of those involved in a blockbuster deal. Cleveland natives remain admirably loyal, though, and will relish the fact that gambling restrictions are being lifted in their State that allow colors to be properly nailed to a favored mast.

Offers, markets and bonuses aplenty are heading Ohio’s way, with Bally Bet – the official sports betting partner of the Browns – set to launch a handy sportsbook app in January, and you can get it here. Alongside awe-inspiring action on the field, there will now be plenty to keep punters entertained off it.

The question is, how much will be riding on the Browns’ season by the time 2023 is welcomed in? A testing start, with, a 4-7 record carrying Kevin Stefanski’s side through their opening 11 games, suggests that the New Year will be a time for reflection rather than play-off planning.

While considerable time, money and effort have been invested in clambering off the foot of the AFC North – a standing which has been occupied on 13 occasions in the last 20 years – forward progress has proved difficult to establish.

The Browns have finished third in their division across each of the last three seasons, but history may be about to repeat itself as they battle with the Pittsburgh Steelers to avoid the ignominy of ending up rock-bottom once again.

So much more was expected when the likes of Hunt made their way through the doors. The Browns could be accused of having shown too much faith in names on jerseys, rather than crunching the numbers and playing the statistical odds.

Whatever the reason, too many supposedly marquee additions have failed to deliver for the most ambitious and expectant of franchises. Hunt appears destined to be one of those big-money signings that are written off as a lost cause.

Value

He came close to forcing a trade in the summer of 2022, with questions being asked about his value to the collective cause after underperforming on the field and entering the final year of his contract off it. He was, however, adamant that he wanted to stay, saying: “I’m going to see what they want to do with me and I’m just taking it day by day. Hopefully I can be here long-term.”

That appears highly unlikely, with Hunt’s output continuing to dwindle as an ever-greater workload is lumped in Chubb’s direction when it comes to doing the hard yards. Productivity and efficiency have never been lower in Hunt’s case and, with the Browns struggling to get a draft pick in compensation once free agency is hit, he has become a cautionary tale when it comes to homecomings – as they are not always happy.

Huynh Nguyen

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