The Cleveland Browns have one of the top young running backs in the NFL in reigning Pro Bowler Nick Chubb, but they spent the days ahead of their 2020 season opener locking up the man behind him on the depth chart. On Tuesday, the team signed No. 2 running back Kareem Hunt to a two-year contract extension, tying the former Kansas City Chiefs star to Cleveland through the 2022 campaign. 

In a press release, the Cleveland area native expressed his joy being able to stay local:

“Cleveland has always been home to me, and putting on the Orange & Brown has been THE dream growing up. Being able to make it official, and play my heart out for the city I love for the next few years is a blessing. Today, I’m honored to sign this extension with the Cleveland Browns, and play next to my Dawg brothers for years to come. Thank you to Mr. and Mrs. Haslam, Andrew Berry, Coach Stefanski and the entire Browns’ organization for continuing to believe in me through the process, and as an integral part in the offensive scheme. To everyone who has also supported me – my family, mentors, friends, and off-the-field team – thank you for continuing to be my “why.” All and continued thanks to God the Good Lord for the guidance, strength, blessings and opportunity to be in this position. And, of course, a BIG thank you to the entire DAWG POUND for welcoming me back home. I promise to continue to push and work hard to bring a championship here for you all, representing the best team in the NFL, and make a lasting impact in the community and on the field.”

Hunt’s two-year extension is worth $13.25 million, per NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport, with $8.5 million guaranteed. Originally signed by the Browns prior to the 2019 season, the 25-year-old was set to become an unrestricted free agent after 2020. Now, he’ll earn a total of $16.5 million over the next three years, making him the 12th-highest-paid running back in the league at an average annual salary of $5.5 million.

Executive Vice President of Football Operations and General Manager Andrew Berry explained Hunt’s importance to the offense and the personal growth that he has been able to witness.

“Kareem Hunt is a core component of our offense. He has been a great teammate, outstanding worker, and steadfast in his desire to have success in his hometown for the long term. Personal growth is often times non-linear but Kareem has remained committed to becoming the best version of himself and we are proud of the redemptive strides he has taken. He understands the opportunity he has in front of him—provided he maintains his current personal trajectory—and we look forward to the contributions he will continue to make to our team,” Berry said. 

More importantly, Hunt’s new deal signals an increased role for the fourth-year back under new coach Kevin Stefanski. A Pro Bowl play-maker for the Chiefs as a rookie, Hunt was limited to eight games during his 2019 Browns debut following a suspension to start the season, but upon taking the field as Chubb’s No. 2, he quickly began accumulating a combined 80 touches as both a runner and receiver, finishing the year with more than 460 yards from scrimmage.

Chubb remains penciled in as Cleveland’s workhorse at running back, but it’s increasingly clear that Hunt, who also partook in wide receiver meetings for the Browns this offseason, will be a featured part of the offense.

“It is exciting for sure,” Chubb said of Hunt in August. “Because he can do so many different things. It doesn’t have to be him running the ball. It can be catching it out of the slot … I think we have a lot of guys on this team and a lot of play-makers, and you can’t go wrong with who has the ball. Pick your poison.”

From a fantasy football perspective, of course, Hunt’s new deal could have mixed results, particularly for Chubb owners.

“While it’s great for (Kareem Hunt) that he got a two-year extension to stay in Cleveland, it isn’t exactly great for his Dynasty value … or Nick Chubb’s, for that matter,” says CBS Sports fantasy analyst Heath Cummings. “I believe Hunt and Chubb are both top-12 talents at running back, but talent is only part of the equation, and this contract appears to lock in a committee for the foreseeable future. If things work how the Browns want them to, both running backs could be Fantasy options that rank between 10th and 15th at running back, but that’s going to require a good defense, a good offensive line, and a lot of touchdowns between the two of them.

“If anything,” Cummings continues, “this deal makes me think the Browns are serious when they talk about splitting the work more evenly between their running backs, which is great at Hunt’s ADP but not so much for Chubb.”

Cleveland opens their season on the road against the defending AFC North champion Ravens Sep. 13. 

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