It’s meant to be the quiet time of the year, but no. It’s impossible for the NFL to be quiet! Yesterday, the Cleveland Browns announced that they have signed Kareem Hunt from free agency. This is after the Chiefs had cut him due to the release of a video depicting Hunt kicking a woman in a hotel hallway last February.
There’s a number of different sides to this story so I’m going to start with the easiest one – from a playing point of view, it’s a good signing (possibly great). On his day, Hunt is probably a top ten running back in the league with the ability to both run through the trenches with power but also to catch the ball from the backfield. There were a number of teams looking into the possibility of signing hunt with rumours that both the Bears and Raiders were doing the due diligence on the player. But it was the Browns that took the plunge and, should Hunt see the field in 2019, will benefit from having a top player in their ranks. It could signal the end for Duke Johnson in Cleveland who’s starting role in the team was taken first by Carlos Hyde and then the rookie running back Nick Chubb who looked very good when he was given the chance. Chubb and Hunt would make an explosive backfield.
Which brings us on to the more controversial angle on this story. The Browns have signed a player with a very public history domestic violence. I’m not sure how Browns would feel about that, for me personally I wouldn’t be happy – just like I wasn’t comfortable with the whole Reuban Foster thing as a 49er fan. General Manager John Dorsey drafted Hunt as a player when he was with the Chiefs. He’s got a history of taking chances on high talent players with personality issues including taking Tyreek Hill at the Chiefs and then in the last draft, Antonio Calloway. There’s probably no better person to revitalise a career in football but it remains to be seen if he can firstly help Hunt get over whatever underlining psychological issues that there may be and also, help Hunt get over the PR battle that will ensue.
Crossing both the playing and the domestic violence point is the fact that the NFL are yet to serve judgement on Hunt and what sort of punishment will be issued. The NFL have been consistently inconsistent when it comes to such matters, chances are that even though Hunt was on the commissioners exempt list at the end of the season that he’ll still have a ban in 2019. It could be anything from four games to the full season. If it’s less than the full season it could see Hunt return in time for a potential playoff push – something which wouldn’t be unexpected from the Browns following a positive 2018 season and finally getting rid of Hue Jackson.
From my own point of view, I’m not an advocate. I personally (and just to underline that this is my own personal view!) don’t feel that players found guilty of or where there is unequivocal evidence of domestic violence should be allowed to play in the NFL. It would send a strong stance should the NFL and NFLPA agree to such a position in the future and one whereby they can look to the Australian Rugby League as a precedent following the case of Ben Barba.