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Why the Bucs can’t afford Kareem Hunt

Tampa Bay should consider the former Chiefs running back, including the real cost of signing him.
Former Kansas City Chiefs running back Kareem Hunt is looking for a new team this offseason. The Chiefs released him after he lied to the team about a physical altercation with a woman in a hotel. (AP Photo/Kelvin Kuo)
Former Kansas City Chiefs running back Kareem Hunt is looking for a new team this offseason. The Chiefs released him after he lied to the team about a physical altercation with a woman in a hotel. (AP Photo/Kelvin Kuo)
Published Jan. 30, 2019|Updated Jan. 31, 2019

He is intriguing, I’ll give you that.

Kareem Hunt is young and talented. He is available and likely cheap.

And for a team such as the Buccaneers, who ran the football both slowly and infrequently last year, he could be a get-out-of-third-down-free card.

So, yes, Bucs officials should be tempted.

And, no, they should not partake.

Some decisions have costs that cannot be measured by dollars or salary caps. And some choices say more about your priorities than wishes or words.

At this moment, on this team, Hunt is the wrong choice.

And signing him would be the wrong decision.

In case you haven’t been following the story, Hunt was an extraordinary rookie running back in Kansas City in 2017 and a league-wide pariah by the end of 2018.

Video of Hunt in a physical altercation with a young woman in a hotel hallway made its way into the public square, and Hunt reportedly lied to the Chiefs when initially questioned about the incident.

Soon, there were whispers of two other bar fights in the previous year, and the Chiefs — in the midst of what looked like a potential Super Bowl season — cut ties with Hunt almost two months ago.

Now come reports that multiple teams, including the Bears, have interest in signing Hunt. And NFL Network analyst Ian Rapoport told WDAE-AM 620 that he expected the Bucs to look into the possibility.

Of course the Bucs should discuss it. They’d be derelict if they did not. But they should figure out pretty quickly that signing Hunt would be a self-defeating decision.

Trust matters, and right now the Bucs do not have enough in the community. A lot of that has to do with wins and losses, but some of it has to do with quarterback Jameis Winston, too.

The Bucs took a chance by drafting Winston after he was accused of rape at Florida State and stood by him when he was accused of another sexual assault in Arizona in 2016. He was not charged in either case and eventually settled lawsuits with both of his accusers.

Winston was suspended by the NFL after the latest incident and eventually apologized for nonspecific behavior. He is now trying to rescue his career while simultaneously trying to rehabilitate his reputation.

And to some degree, so are the Bucs.

The Glazer family made a choice to put its faith in Winston’s character, and in doing so, it put its own reputation on the line. Maybe 10 years from now, the Glazers will feel vindicated by their support for him. Maybe 10 months from now, they will regret it with all their hearts.

The point is, they can’t do it again.

They do not know Hunt. They have no history with him. If they sign a player who has been accused of violence three times in the past year, including once involving a woman, they might as well put out a mission statement that declares that talent on a football field trumps every other consideration.

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This is not about whether Hunt deserves a second chance.

This is about the bond between a team and a community. Around here, it’s been tested. It’s been frayed. It’s been stretched close to the breaking point after too many lost seasons and one high-profile investment in a player with a trail of disturbing accusations.

There will be those who say this is a no-lose situation for the Bucs. Hunt is a free agent who will likely be forced to accept a below-value contract and could be easily cut loose if things turn sour.

But in this situation, that’s not the issue.

The real cost in signing Hunt is a community’s faith in its football team. And I’m not sure the Bucs can afford it.

Contact John Romano at jromano@tampabay.com. Follow @romano_tbtimes.

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