Defensive tackle Cletidus Hunt, who quickly came of professional age upon becoming a full-time starter in 2002, has been signed to a new, multi-year contract by the Green Bay Packers, GM/Head Coach Mike Sherman announced Wednesday.
In keeping with long-standing Packers policy, financial terms of the contract were not announced.
Hunt's signing enabled the organization to remove the Transition designation the team assigned to him Feb. 20 to retain his services while Andrew Brandt, the club's vice president of player finance, and Hunt's agent, Jimmy Sexton, worked out a new contract for the four-year veteran.
Sherman, patently pleased over having Hunt available for the long term, said, "I think that Cletidus Hunt is at just the tip of the iceberg in regard to what he's capable of doing. I think he can be a dominant player in this league."
He added, "With him - and also to fix the corner position, which I think Al Harris will help us with, in depth at that position and possibly be a player that can go in there and play right away - I think we've helped our defense...but we've got a lot more things to fix."
Harris, a five-year veteran, had been acquired in a draft choice transaction with the Philadelphia Eagles Feb. 28.
The 27-year-old Hunt stepped in at the "Eagle" tackle spot at the start of training camp following the release of veteran Santana Dotson, and responded with the most productive season of his career in '02. Making 14 starts - he sat out two games after suffering a sprained medial collateral ligament in his right knee during the Packers' Monday night contest against the Miami Dolphins Nov. 4 - he led all defensive linemen in tackles with 48 and finished third on the team in quarterback sacks with 5.5.
The 6-4, 303-pound Kentucky State alumnus also weighed in with 4 passes defensed, one forced fumble, 2 fumble recoveries and a blocked extra point try (by the Vikings' Gary Anderson Dec. 8).
Additionally, Hunt also was a defensive standout in the Packers' Wild Card playoff against Atlanta Jan. 4, leading the team's defensive linemen with 8 tackles.
Early in the season, the massive Tennesseean gave promise of contributions to come when he enjoyed a breakout performance in the Packers' 17-14 victory over the Carolina Panthers, recording 7 tackles (his high during the regular season). His production included two sacks of Panthers quarterback Rodney Peete.
Hunt, a third-round draft selection in 1999 (the 94th player chosen), also was a key factor in the Packers' 10-0 shutout of Buffalo on Dec. 22, recovering a pair of fumbles by Bills quarterback Drew Bledsoe, the second ending a final Buffalo drive that had reached the Green Bay 17-yard-line with 1:19 remaining.
A versatile athlete who played both tackle and end during the 2000 and 2001 seasons, Hunt has been a productive performer. In 53 career games, including 30 starts, he has registered 146 tackles, 93 of them solo. He also has posted 11 sacks, been credited with 9 passes defensed, forced 4 fumbles and recovered one.
Utilized primarily as a situational pass rusher as a rookie in 1999, Hunt subsequently became a valuable backup along the defensive line, making 11 starts in 2000 and six near the end of the 2001 season.