One of the biggest questions in the NFL this offseason involved former Kansas City Chiefs running back Kareem Hunt. The question was two-fold: Which team would sign Hunt, and what disciplinary action would the league take against him? Now, we have our answer to the first part, after the Cleveland Browns announced Monday that they’ve signed Hunt to a contract.
Hunt was released by the Chiefs in late November after TMZ published video that showed him kicking and shoving a woman in a Cleveland hotel in February 2018. He went unclaimed on waivers after being placed on the Commissioner Exempt list, meaning he will not be eligible to play football or practice with the team until Roger Goodell takes him off that list. Hunt is allowed to “be present at the club’s facility on a reasonable basis for meetings, individual workouts, therapy and rehabilitation and other permitted non-football activities,” though, according to NFL.com. The NFL admitted it did not have access to the material obtained by TMZ when it conducted its initial investigation into the incident. It says it is still looking into the situation; Hunt is expected to face a lengthy suspension whenever that investigation concludes.
Cleveland general manager John Dorsey was the GM in Kansas City from 2013 to 2017, and his front office drafted Hunt in 2017. In a statement made to the Browns’ website, Dorsey cited his previous relationship with the running back as one of the major factors behind the decision:
Statement from GM John Dorsey: pic.twitter.com/TUgoBalvkg— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) February 11, 2019
In that statement, Dorsey says that Hunt “took full responsibility” for the incident and showed “true remorse.” He also said that the team has a plan for Hunt, though no specifics were laid out.
Hunt also released a statement through the organization, in which he apologized for the altercation and expressed his gratitude to Dorsey and the Browns for signing him:
Statement from RB Kareem Hunt: pic.twitter.com/JPRFnkRdCy— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) February 11, 2019
This signing deepens the hole the NFL has dug for itself with regard to its handling of violence against women. After the Ray Rice scandal in 2014, the league promised that investigations would be more thorough. Yet news of the Hunt altercation (after which no charges were filed against him) was made public almost immediately, and it still took a TMZ investigation to gain access to footage of this incident. Now the Browns are signing him mere months after that footage was released.
Dorsey has a history of bringing in players with violent pasts. In 2016, when he was in Kansas City, Dorsey drafted Tyreek Hill in the fifth round, roughly a year after Hill pleaded guilty to punching and choking his pregnant girlfriend. But while there is precedent for this kind of signing strictly from a front office standpoint, it is surprising in that the Browns don’t seem to need Hunt on the football field. Running backs are among the most replaceable players in football, and Cleveland already has one of the league’s best backs in Nick Chubb. The rookie averaged 5.2 yards per carry this season, including 4.47 yards after contact, the highest mark among backs who played at least 61 snaps, per Pro Football Focus. He was electric enough that the Browns traded Carlos Hyde to Jacksonville in October and proceeded to center their run game on Chubb. So why bring in Hunt?
There are a number of questions still to be answered, including what disciplinary action Hunt will face and why the league keeps failing to do investigations as thoroughly as TMZ. But in the wake of this signing, one thing is sure: The NFL’s handling of violence remains as confounding and frustrating as ever.