The Browns placed a second-round tender on restricted free agent running back Kareem Hunt on Monday morning.
The move likely will keep Hunt with the Browns for 2020.
By placing the $3.259 million second-round tender on Hunt — they could’ve chosen the first- or third-round tender — the Browns would receive a second-round draft pick if another team reached a contract agreement with Hunt and the Browns declined to match it. Given Hunt’s history — he was suspended for the first eight games last season for a pair of off-field altercations — it seems unlikely a team would give up a second-round pick in addition to signing him to a big-money contract.
Hunt, 24, led the NFL in rushing as a rookie in 2017 with 1,327 yards for the Chiefs. He was cut Nov. 30, 2018, after a video surfaced on him pushing and kicking a woman.
The Browns signed him last offseason. When he returned from the suspension, he rushed 43 times for 179 yards and two touchdowns and caught 37 passes for 285 yards and a touchdown in eight games. He formed a talented and productive backfield tandem with starter Nick Chubb.
The Browns chose to stick with Hunt following a traffic stop Jan. 21 in Rocky River in which he admitted to the officer he would’ve failed a drug test. He was cited for speeding but not possession of marijuana, which was confiscated.
“It’s not good. Kareem knows he’s got to do better,” owner Jimmy Haslam said Feb. 5.
Hunt was born in Elyria before moving to the east side and attending Willoughby South High School.
Christian Kirksey took advantage of his head start on free agency.
Kirksey agreed to a two-year, $16 million deal with the Packers before the negotiating period started Monday, the agency that represents him announced. The Browns cut the linebacker Tuesday, making him available to sign elsewhere immediately.
Kirskey, 27, will be reunited with Mike Pettine, the Packers’ defensive coordinator who was coach of the Browns in 2014 when Kirksey was drafted in the third round.
The Browns cut Kirksey to avoid paying him a $7.75 million salary and $1 million roster bonus in 2020. He signed a four-year, $38 million contract extension in 2017 but was derailed by injuries the last two years.
He missed nine games in 2018 with shoulder, ankle and hamstring injuries and 14 last year with a torn pectoral muscle.
The Browns are also expected to lose middle linebacker Joe Schobert. They’re letting him reach free agency and aren’t willing to pay what he’s expected to command on the open market.
The Browns’ need at safety became more pronounced Monday when they released 31-year-old Morgan Burnett, and Eric Murray and Juston Burris agreed to sign elsewhere.
The Browns were already looking for two starters and now have almost no depth at the position. Sheldrick Redwine, a fourth-round pick a year ago, and J.T. Hassell, an undrafted rookie last year, are the only safeties under contract. Damarious Randall is expected to leave as a free agent.
Burnett, an 11-year veteran, started eight games last year in his only season with the Browns. He had 41 tackles, two sacks, an interception and two passes defensed before his Achilles tendon ruptured Nov. 14 against the Steelers.
Murray reportedly agreed to a three-year deal with the Texans worth up to $20.25 million. Burris’ deal is with the Panthers for two years and $8 million.
Anthony Harris, a potential free agent target for the Browns, received the franchise tag from the Vikings, which kept him from becoming a free agent.
The NFL and NFL Players Association announced the start of the offseason program will be delayed indefinitely due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The Browns were set to open their program April 6 under new coach Kevin Stefanski. The situation will be reassessed periodically.
** The Browns tendered exclusive rights free agents tight end Pharaoh Brown, running back Dontrell Hilliard and receiver KhaDarel Hodge.