Running back Kareem Hunt signed a one-year deal with the Cleveland Browns on Monday, the team announced.
Hunt, a Pro Bowl pick as a rookie in 2017 on his way to a repeat in 2018 with the Kansas City Chiefs, is currently on the exempt list while the NFL investigates an assault captured on video last February.
The incident prompted his immediate release by the Chiefs in November.
Hunt would become a restricted free agent in March 2020, which is significant because the Browns would retain rights of first refusal if another team signs Hunt to an offer sheet.
ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported on air Monday that Hunt was facing a “10 or 12 game” suspension and could even be suspended for the “majority or the entire 2019 season.”
The Browns also have Nick Chubb, a second-round pick in 2018, at running back.
Browns general manager John Dorsey drafted Hunt out of Toledo and has been in contact with him during an ongoing suspension.
“My relationship and interaction with Kareem since 2016 in college was an important part of this decision making process but we then did extensive due diligence with many individuals, including clinical professionals, to have a better understanding of the person he is today and whether it was prudent to sign him,” Dorsey said in a statement.
“There were two important factors: one is that Kareem took full responsibility for his egregious actions and showed true remorse and secondly, just as importantly, he is undergoing and is committed to necessary professional treatment and a plan that has been clearly laid out.”
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said during his Super Bowl week address that the league hoped to finish an investigation — and render any decision on discipline — very soon.
Hunt issued a statement Monday after the deal became official.
“First off, I would like to once again apologize for my actions last year. What I did was wrong and inexcusable,” Hunt said. “That is not the man I was raised to be, and I’ve learned a great deal from that experience and certainly should have been more truthful about it after the fact. I’m extremely grateful that John Dorsey, Dee and Jimmy Haslam and the Cleveland Browns organization are granting me the opportunity to earn their trust and represent their organization in the best way possible on and off the field. I am committed to following the necessary steps to learn and to be a better and healthier person from this situation. I also understand the expectations that the Browns have clearly laid out and that I have to earn my way back to the NFL. I’m a work in progress as a person, but I’m committed to taking advantage of the support systems that I have in place to become the best and healthier version of myself.”
Dorsey has shown a willingness to align with players with skeletons in their closet in the past, including drafting wide receiver Tyreek Hill despite a serious guilty plea for assault and battery by strangulation of his then-pregnant girlfriend while at Oklahoma State.
Hunt went unclaimed on waivers and became a free agent after the video of then-19-year-old Abigail Ottinger from Berea, Ohio — the location of the Browns’ team facility — surfaced.
Hunt, 23, is from the Cleveland suburb of Willoughby and spends a significant part of his offseason in the area. Following his college football at Toledo, he burst onto the scene as a third-round draft pick in 2017.
Hunt rushed for 1,327 yards as a rookie. He had 824 yards through 11 games in 2018.
—Field Level Media