Kareem Hunthas reached an agreement with the Cleveland Browns for a one-year deal worth around $1 million, according to Ian Rapoport. At the end of that one-year deal, Hunt will become a restricted free agent. That means that the Browns can make a qualifying offer at one of three levels, for either first round, second round, or original round (in this case, third round) compensation if another team chooses to sign Hunt to a long-term deal in 2020.
It’s almost certain that Hunt will make more money over the next two years than he would have if he was still on the Kansas City roster. He was scheduled to make $678,750 in base salary for 2019.
In 2020, he would have qualified for the proven performance escalator, and his salary with Kansas City would have risen to just over $2 million, although he would not be a restricted free agent and able to sign a larger deal.
What we do not know is the length of any suspension that will be issued by the NFL. Hunt already missed the final five regular season games last year after being released by the Chiefs and being placed on the Commissioner’s Exempt List (the same method, for example, that kept Adrian Peterson from playing for the remainder of the 2014 season after child abuse charges emerged). He will be subject to a suspension before returning, and he will not get the pro-rated portion of those game checks while suspended. For a $1 million contract, that would be $62,500 per week. He would also have been subject to the same lost checks, though, if Kansas City had not outright released him, and kept him on the same contract but suspended him. If he is suspended for eight games, for example, he would still get $500,000 next year, and would have received almost $340,000 if he served an eight-game suspension under his former contract.
He will also likely make up that amount by 2020. If he is a restricted free agent, the Browns can tender him at over $4 million on a first round offer (meaning any team signing him to a free agent tender offer gives up their first round pick), $3 million on a second round offer, and just over $2 million on a third round offer.
When you consider that veterans like Chris Ivory make over $2.5 million per year, Jonathan Stewart got $3.4 million to be a veteran backup to Saquon Barkley, and that LeGarrette Blount got $2 million a year ago, you can bet that someone like Hunt, a year removed from suspension, will be worth more in 2020. He will either get a higher qualifying offer from the Browns in 2020, to make it less likely teams sign him to a tender, or the Browns make the lowest offer to get that third round draft pick
So he either would get a higher qualifying offer than what his base would have been in Kansas City in 2020, or he is able to sign a free agent contract a year earlier.
The Chiefs immediately moved to release Kareem Hunt in the aftermath of the video of his assault emerging. Hunt has certainly had to deal with the backlash. But the Chiefs are the ones that took the cap hit, and released the player, while the Browns will stand to get draft pick compensation, and Hunt likely will end up making more money than he would have by staying in Kansas City.