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Report: Browns now want only a fourth-round pick for Kareem Hunt

Mike Florio and Chris Simms preview a key AFC North matchup between the Cincinnati Bengals and Cleveland Browns, and explain why they believe the surging Bengals will come out on top in Week 8.

As the trade deadline approaches, the Browns have softened on their refusal to trade running back Kareem Hunt -- and, more importantly, on their expected return for him.

We recently reported that the Browns were looking for a Christian McCaffrey-style package for Hunt, who launched a short (and ill-fated) hold-in during training camp with a request to be dealt. But hoping for something like a two, three, four, and five wasn’t going to get it done, especially after the Jaguars got only a sixth-round pick that can upgrade to a fifth-rounder for running back James Robinson. Adam Schefter of ESPN now reports that the Browns will take a fourth-rounder for Hunt.

The alternative is to keep Hunt, let him leave in free agency, and qualify for a compensatory pick for Hunt in 2024. If, however, the Browns splurge on unrestricted free agents in 2023, they may not be eligible for any compensatory selections.

As previously explained, the outcome of Cleveland’s Week Eight game could shape the final transaction. If they beat the Bengals on Monday night and finish their pre-bye schedule at 3-5, they may hold out for more. If they lose, slumping to 2-6, it could be time to cut and run.

The problem with making the trade is that, if starter Nick Chubb gets injured, they’ll need Hunt. (They still have D’Ernest Johnson, who showed he could get it done last year.) The problem with keeping Hunt is that, with quarterback Deshaun Watson returning in only five weeks, the offense likely will change dramatically -- with the quarterback becoming the centerpiece, not the running backs.

Hunt has 66 carries for 283 yards in seven games. He had a season-low four yards and five attempts last Sunday against the Ravens.

There’s one additional wrinkle to remember here. If a contender loses a starting running back to injury this weekend, that could give the Browns leverage to get more than expected for Hunt.

It’s starting to feel inevitable that Hunt will be moved by Tuesday. As we’ve seen in the past, sometimes the players that seem the most inevitable to be traded aren’t. This one makes too much sense to not happen, however, especially if the Browns lose on Monday night and further complicate their path to the postseason, no matter what Watson does to improve the team during its final six games.