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What releasing Kareem Hunt means for the Chiefs, the Patriots and the NFL

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Stunning news out of the league.

Kansas City Chiefs v New England Patriots Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Other than final injury reports and minor transactions, Fridays are usually slow-news days in the NFL. Yesterday, however, was different. After a video emerged that showed Kansas City Chiefs running back Kareem Hunt pushing and kicking a woman in a hotel, the running back was first placed on the Commissioner’s Exempt List and later released by the team.

The incident does not only raise more questions about the league’s handling of domestic and physical violence, it also has a major impact on the Chiefs and their rivals in the AFC’s playoff race — including the New England Patriots. Let us therefore take a look at what Hunt’s release means from a pure football perspective.

The Chiefs part ways with their most productive offensive player

Ever since getting drafted in the third round last year, Hunt has been a key cog in the Chiefs’ offensive machinery. This year is no different as the 23-year old leads the team’s high-powered offense in touches and yards from scrimmage. Hunt is Kansas City’s number one running back with 181 rushing attempts for 824 yards and seven touchdowns, all while ranking fourth on the team with 26 catches and 378 receiving yards. He also caught seven of quarterback Patrick Mahomes’ touchdown passes.

Kansas City’s offensive players will have to step up to fill Hunt’s void

Hunt was tied for third among the Chiefs’ offensive skill position players this season with a 70.4% playing time share. With him no longer part of the equation, the team’s depth will be tested — especially at running back: while wide receiver Tyreek Hill and tight end Travis Kelce might see more action as a result of Hunt’s release, running backs Spencer Ware (22 rushes/124 yards/1 touchdown), Damien Williams (3/1) and De’Anthony Thomas (1/6) need to step up.

The power balance in the AFC might just have changed

Given his production and role as well as the depth behind him, Hunt is an enormous loss for the Chiefs — one that might have a profound impact on the AFC’s playoff picture. Kansas City currently leads the conference with a 9-2 record, one game ahead of the Patriots (who own a tiebreaker over the team) and the Houston Texans. It will be interesting to see how and if Hunt’s release changes the Chiefs’s fortunes moving forward and how the team adapts on such a short notice: the Chiefs will play the Oakland Raiders tomorrow.

Hunt will now pass through the waiver wire

With Hunt getting released this deep into the NFL season, he will now have to go through the league’s waiver wire before hitting the open market. This means that any of the league’s teams — except the Chiefs obviously — will be able to pick him up. However, it would be a surprise if this happened considering that a) he will likely face a suspension, and b) the publicity impact will be a negative one. Just ask Washington, which just claimed linebacker Reuben Foster.