Free agent Kareem Hunt, still looking for a new team, could return to Browns | Jeff Schudel
Mar. 18—This is not a good era to be a free-agent running back.
NFLTradeRumors.com on March 17 posted their subjective rankings of the free agents still available. Wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., who hasn't played a game since he was injured in the Rams' 2021 Super Bowl victory, tops their list.
Damien Harris from the Patriots, the website's highest-rated available running back, is ranked 18th overall, one notch ahead of Devin Singletary of the Bills.
Kareem Hunt of the Browns is 27th, sandwiched between Ezekiel Elliott of the Cowboys and Leonard Fournette of the Buccaneers. D'Ernest Johnson of the Browns did not make the list of 40 nor the Pro Football Focus list of top 89 free agents. PFF ranks Hunt 47th overall, with Cowboys tight end Dalton Schultz ranked first.
Hunt is not going to get that big payday he sought. Could he possibly re-sign with the Browns if he is viewed as only a backup to the rest of the league? Unlikely, as the Browns seem to be going to more of a passing offense to feature Deshaun Watson, but Hunt behind Nick Chubb is better than Jerome Ford behind Chubb.
The Panthers signed Miles Sanders (Eagles) for four years and $25 million. Rashaad Penny signed a one-year, $1.5 million deal with the Eagles after five seasons in Seattle. Jamaal Williams, 27, signed for $12 million over three years to play for the Saints after playing the last two seasons in Detroit. The Bears did not re-sign David Montgomery. He signed a three-year, $18 million deal with the Lions.
Hunt carried 123 times for 468 yards and three touchdowns last season. He caught 35 passes for 210 yards and one touchdown. He would be a good fit as a receiving threat with Watson at quarterback.
Hunt caused a brief ruckus during training camp last summer when he sat out two practices in protest of his contract, but then went back to work and didn't complain again.
—By the time we look back on the Browns' 2023 season next January or February, I predict right now signing free safety Juan Thornhill will be regarded as the most important addition the Browns made this year in free agency.
The Browns signed John Johnson to a three-year contract in 2021 to play free safety. He was a strong safety in three seasons with the Rams before the Browns signed him. He admitted the change to free safety in Joe Woods' defense was an adjustment.
Thornhill, 27 years old, was a free safety his first three years with Kansas City. He was listed simply as a safety with the Chiefs in 2022.
"I'm very comfortable (at free safety)," Thornhill said on a Zoom call with reporters covering the Browns. "I think I'm that guy who can cover from sideline-to-sideline. No matter where the ball is going to go, I can see myself going to get it.
"I can tell that (defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz) likes those guys that can do multiple jobs — being able to cover man-to-man, being down in the box and playing in a deep-half and in a third. He definitely sees me as that guy who can do all of the different roles."
Thornhill played for the Chiefs in their 2019 and 2022 Super Bowl championship seasons. He suffered a knee injury in Week 17 of the 2019 season and missed the playoffs on injured reserve. He was not cheated out of the 2022 postseason. He totaled 13 tackles and broke up three passes in three games. He had five tackles and a pass break-up in the Chiefs' 38-35 Super Bowl thriller over the Eagles.