More storylines are emerging as training camps continue around the league, and the Cleveland Browns have quite a few.
Much of their buzz centers around quarterback DeShaun Watson and the swirling question of how many games he’ll truly be suspended for.
But there is another important development unfolding within their offense: running back Kareem Hunt, seeking a contract extension, has requested a trade, per ESPN. However, Cleveland has informed the 27-year-old that it has no plans to fulfill the request.
Barring a long-term RB1 injury on a contender, it feels unlikely Cleveland’s stance changes anytime soon. However, if they were given a running back that has the talent to take on a role similar to Hunt’s, perhaps their minds could be changed.
Enter the Eagles, who, seeking a change in the backfield, make a one-for-one trade where Miles Sanders is exchanged for Hunt. It’s an obviously theoretical and highly improbable trade, but let’s try to rationalize why it could perhaps make sense for both teams.
Why Would A Hunt Trade Make Sense?
It seems as if the Eagles and Sanders, 25, are nearing the end of the road. Despite the team’s tendencies to nail down extensions for young stars in short order (Jordan Mailata, Josh Sweat, Dallas Goedert), they’ve shown no inkling to do so with the Penn State alum.
If the team isn’t sold on Sanders as the RB1 of the near future, then why not acquire another running back who could be?
Hunt’s production as an RB-1B behind Nick Chubb — when healthy — is appealing: in 16 games in 2020, Hunt rushed for 841 yards and six touchdowns on 198 attempts, while catching 38 receptions for 304 yards and five touchdowns.
There’s no question Hunt possesses better workhorse capabilities, versatility, and overall talent than Sanders, who has yet to match the dual-threat production of his rookie season (1,327 scrimmage yards).
With a burning desire to earn or make good on his next contract, and behind a top-five offensive line, Hunt over Sanders is an upgrade that would further solidify the Eagles’ offense as a major force in the NFC.
While downgrading from Hunt to Sanders, Cleveland’s duo of Chubb and Sanders is still a highly productive one that aligns with their standing as a contender. His youth also makes a long-term extension more palatable to the Browns if they desire to maintain a two-headed RB dynamic moving forward.
Why A Hunt Trade Wouldn’t Make Sense
Right off the bat, Hunt is seeking an extension, hence the shortly-lived hold-out. One would then imagine a trade would also need to include a signing — like the A.J. Brown trade — in order for it to go through and ensure all parties are happy.
Brown’s extension shows the Eagles aren’t afraid to make splashy moves, but at the same time, the players are in very different parts of their careers:
- Brown is a budding star receiver who’s coming off a solid season while still young (25).
- Hunt, while still in his prime, is slowly aging towards 30 – often times the career-digression point for running backs. Given his health, one could wonder if that drop begins sooner and more suddenly.
Committing a serious chunk of change for a back who’s played in 32 out of a possible 49 games over the last three seasons (and just eight games in 2021) is questionable, to put it mildly. If it’s a short-term deal, then it’s a different discussion, but we have no idea what Hunt is looking for.
It’s also fair to wonder if Sanders is the kind of compensation Cleveland would be seeking. Draft picks could be more valuable to the team if they have no plans to re-sign either back to an extension, which is a significant possibility given their commitment to Chubb.
Watson’s availability also throws a wrench into the situation. If they entertain offers, what Cleveland looks for probably depends on whether they consider the upcoming season to be a wash or one that will see the eventual return of the QB.
A Hunt-Sanders Trade Is A Longshot And Should Stay That Way
At this point, the Eagles are probably better off rolling with Sanders. Despite questions about consistency, his health has been far superior to Hunt’s.
Additionally, Sanders staying means the Eagles don’t necessarily have to lock themselves into a long-term deal, and can just let the rest of Sanders’ contract play out.
You might not get that opportunity if a Hunt deal goes down, and if you do, you’ll also have plenty of drama and media questions about Hunt’s future, creating unnecessary distractions for both him and the team.
Finally, if the Eagles do have interest in Hunt, they could always sign him during the offseason after seeing if he’s able to maintain his health and production. That gamble might result in Hunt playing out of the Eagles’ willing price range, but at least there’s more assurance.
While these kinds of RB talks seem far-fetched now, how well Sanders performs in his final year could determine if we’re reading into these ideas a lot more often come October or November.