Browns place second round tender on Kareem Hunt, release safety Morgan Burnett

The Cleveland Browns announced a serious of moves Monday morning ahead of free agency, including placing a second round tender on restricted free agent running back Kareem Hunt. The team also tendered several exclusive rights free agents: wide receiver KhaDarel Hodge, tight end Pharaoh Brown and running back Dontrell Hilliard. The Browns announced that they are releasing veteran safety Morgan Burnett. 

Hunt was a controversial addition to the roster last offseason. After serving his eight-game suspension for violating the personal conduct policy while with the Chiefs, he joined a crowded backfield alongside Nick Chubb. The team found a way to use both Hunt and Chubb and were effective in doing so. The 24-year-old Hunt recorded 43 carries for 179 yards and two touchdowns as well as 37 receptions for 285 yards and a touchdown. 

Hunt and the other tendered players can still negotiate with other teams, but the Browns have the right to match any offers they receive. 

Hunt was pulled over in January with an open vodka container and marijuana. For a young man who is supposed to be maturing, it sends the wrong message. There were questions about whether or not new head coach Kevin Stefanki and new general manager Andrew Berry would want to retain him. 

At his introductory press conference, Stefanski acknowledged that the team will have expectations for the running back.

“I think every situation is different, but certainly with any player, we are going to have standards by how we behave when we are not in this building and when we are in this building. I think Kareem understands that, and we are going to move forward with him understanding where I stand on all those matters,” Stefanski said in early February. 

He also answered the question of whether or not the organization would want Hunt back for another season.

“I think certainly I want Kareem and [wide receiver] Odell [Beckham Jr.] on the team this year,” Stefanski said. “Yes, they are players I believe in. Again, two different situations, but to lump them together, I would put them with all of our players. There is a standard that we will set and that we are going to ask of them to adhere to those standards.”

Burnett was a third-round pick, No. 71 overall, of the Green Bay Packers in the 2010 NFL Draft. The 31-year-old dealt with a groin injury during the 2018 season, which cost him five games. He missed eight games last season in Cleveland. Despite missing so much time, Burnett made an impact when healthy. He recorded 41 tackles, two sacks, one interception and two pass deflections. Over the course of his career, he has recorded 11.5 sacks, eight forced fumbles, 10 fumble recoveries and 12 interceptions.

Hodge was a contributor on special teams. He also recorded four receptions for 76 yards. Brown provided two receptions for 27 yards. Hilliard, who is also a special teams contributor, had 13 carries for 49 yards and two touchdowns as well as 12 receptions for 92 yards.

Free agency begins March 18. The Browns are projected as having one of the largest treasure chests to spend.

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