LAKE FOREST – One of the key questions for the Bears heading to the offseason is what they’ll do about their No. 1 running back.
Jordan Howard will enter the fourth and final seasons of his rookie deal in 2019, but he comes off his first non-1,000 yard season in 2018. A big reason was the different utilization of the running back in a different offense under Matt Nagy.
So if the Bears decided to go a different direction at that position, who would they take a look at? Maybe free agency or the NFL Draft?
One name was brought up during Monday’s end of season news conference at Halas Hall to general manager Ryan Pace – and it’s one few have brought up since his release last November.
Pace was asked during the news conference if the off-field issues would deter the Bears from pursuing the running back, who played for head coach Matt Nagy in Kansas City last year.
The general manager didn’t say yes, but didn’t say no either.
“As we go into that, obviously there’s a lot of things off the field that he’s got to take care of,” said Pace. “Matt knows Kareem. I don’t know Kareem, but those things are all going to have to play out.”
At the moment, Hunt is on the commissioner’s exempt list following the release of the video and then his release from the Chiefs. Just interest in the running back will cause controversy considering the nature of the act.
The Bears faced a similar situation with Ray McDonald in 2015, when he was signed after a pair of arrests for suspicion of domestic violence while a member of the 49ers. After the move was signed off by George McCaskey, McDonald was arrested in May for a similar violation in Santa Clara County, California and was promptly released.
Pace was asked how that outcome would affect his decision to pursue Hunt or other players who’ve had off-field issues.
“I think every one of those is unique. Everyone is different. All the circumstances are always different. So we’re not even there yet, you know what I mean,” said Pace. “I know what he is as a player, obviously, from watching him. Matt knows a little bit more about him as a person but we’re not even close to that point.”
Indeed Nagy knows about him as a player and a person. On the field, Hunt led the NFL in rushing in his rookie season of 2017, picking up 1,327 yards on the ground with eight touchdowns along with 53 catches. He had already accumulated 824 yards rushing with seven touchdowns along with 26 receptions through 11 games this year before his release.
That, of course, isn’t the main issue when it comes to Hunt. Nagy said he spoke to the running back a week ago, checking in on everything but football.
“We had a good conversation. Here’s a kid that I spent a year coaching on offense. It’s a tough situation. I wanted to see, making sure that he’s okay, but understanding, too, the situation that happened is unfortunate for everybody, and he knows that,” said Nagy on his conversation with Hunt. “The only thing I cared about when I talked to him was literally his personal life, how he’s doing, and it was a good conversation.
“He sounded good, but that’s it.”
When it comes to bringing Hunt to the Bears, all it is at the moment is speculation. By no means did Nagy or Pace say they were interested on Monday, but they certainly didn’t say no either.