Andrew Berry should stand his ground, not give in to Kareem Hunt’s trade request – BrownsZone with Scott Petrak

BEREA — General manager Andrew Berry stood his ground in a similar circumstance and should do so again.

The Browns’ initial response this weekend was to reject running back Kareem Hunt’s trade request. Berry shouldn’t budge even if Hunt continues to be a distraction and try to make things difficult for his hometown team.

The Browns have a doctorate in disarray, especially lately with Deshaun Watson’s looming suspension.

Kareem Hunt returns to team drills after skipping them for two days, requesting trade

Hunt has been asking for a contract extension since at least the spring. The Browns didn’t agree and seemed content to let him play the final year of a two-year, $12 million contract extension signed in 2020.

Hunt responded by refusing to participate in team drills on Friday and Saturday. Berry’s private dealings with Hunt and his agent were made public, and the trade request made matters worse.

Don’t expect Berry to bend. Hunt already has, to some extent.

Facing the threat of more fines and with coach Kevin Stefanski making it clear that healthy players don’t get to choose when they practice, Hunt returned to team drills Sunday. He did what he always does, run hard and catch passes.

Field goals on the rise from Cade York, working to increase variety in kickoffs

Berry’s most relevant experience denying a trade request was with Mercurial tight end David Njoku in 2020. Njoku wasn’t happy that the Browns signed Austin Hooper in free agency and drafted Harrison Bryant, so he asked out. .

Berry said no and stood her ground. Njoku kept practicing and playing, eventually changing his mind, proclaiming his desire to stay, and was rewarded with a four-year, $54.75 million contract.
Hunt should borrow from Njoku’s playbook.

The situations are not identical, and even a breakout season from Hunt, who turned 27 on Saturday, might not bring the extension. But he won’t get much money from the Browns, or anyone else, without a breakout season in which he shows he’s still one of the best in the league after an injury-plagued 2021.

Another team could offer opportunities this year as the No. 1 running back, but Hunt had great success working alongside three-time Pro Bowler Nick Chubb and getting time at wide receiver. Stefanski seems more inclined to use Chubb and Hunt together on the field this season, and if Watson is suspended for most or all of the season, he will turn to the running game to run the offense.

Those realities and Hunt’s many talents (he might be the team’s second-best receiver behind Amari Cooper) are the main reasons Berry can’t give in to the trade demand. Not to mention, he would set a terrible precedent for players unhappy with their contracts, especially those entering the final seasons of their deals.

Hunt can skip as many team drills as he wants, but he can’t force the Browns to trade him. He doesn’t have the clout of a quarterback or a superstar, and the Browns have quality running backs behind him in D’Ernest Johnson and rookie Jerome Ford he’s threatening to sit on.

“Excited for that room. A lot of talent,” Stefanski said Sunday before practice.

I think Hunt will continue to push and practice, saying the same thing at his youth soccer camp in June. He plays with reckless abandon, was born and raised in Northeast Ohio and wants to take his family and friends to a Super Bowl.

“I hope they pay me,” he said in June. “So you know, whatever they decide, they know I’m going to go out there and give it my all and do everything I can to help the team win.”

It also provided a glimpse into his growing discontent.

“If they are correct and they make me feel good, then I will be willing to be here,” he said. “If not, we’ll see where it goes after that. I really do not know.

Therefore, he cannot rescind the trade request and at some point try to force Berry’s hand with another move. If it persists, maybe Berry would see what the trade market looks like.

But unless a team with playoff hopes needs a starter, Berry would be lucky to get a last-round pick. Hunt is too valuable to the Browns to make such a deal or consider releasing him.

He looked like a top 10 or top 15 in 2020 (841 yards, six rushing touchdowns and 38 receptions for 304 yards and five touchdowns) before calf and ankle injuries cost him nine games last year as he rushed for 386 yards. five touchdowns and a 4.9 average and caught 22 passes for 174 yards and a 7.9 average.

Whether he’s in Cleveland or elsewhere, he’ll need a turnaround season to get the $6.25 million he’s owed this year again in 2023, let alone the raise he wants. He can point to his NFL running back title as a rookie in 2017 with the Chiefs, but a lot has happened since then.

Then-Browns general manager John Dorsey gave Hunt a second chance by signing him in February 2019 after the Chiefs released him the previous season following a pair of off-the-field altercations, which included kicking and shoving a woman. He may be emboldened by the fully guaranteed $230 million contract awarded to Watson, who faces a lengthy suspension from the NFL following more than two dozen sexual misconduct allegations.

But someone on the Browns determined that Watson was worth the money and the hassle. The same calculation doesn’t work for Hunt.

Berry is in his third year as general manager. She has been through this before. He should handle it the same way.

Browns writer for The Chronicle-Telegram and the Medina Gazette. Proud graduate of Northwestern University. Husband and stepfather. Avid golfer who needs to hit the range to get to a single digit handicap. Good on Johnny Manziel, bad on Brandon Weeden. Contact Scott at 440-329-7253, or email and follow him on and Twitter.

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