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Cleveland Browns: What Happens with Duke Johnson?

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The emergence of Nick Chubb and the signing of Kareem Hunt has left one Browns running back out in the cold.

When the Hunt signing was officially announced, there was plenty of speculation surrounding Duke Johnson’s status in Cleveland. Now, according to a report on Cleveland.com, there are multiple teams calling about the availability of the fifth-year running back.

Since the initial report hit the surface, another report from Andy Slater stated that the Eagles and Cowboys have stepped in as potential suitors for Johnson.

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John Dorsey has already proven that he isn’t reluctant to trade players with value for draft picks, as he dished both Josh Gordon and Carlos Hyde in the middle of last season.

Should Johnson be next? With so much optimism swirling around the Browns this offseason, what should they do about their fan-favorite offensive weapon?

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It’s simple, don’t trade him.

As of right now, the NFL has yet to make a decision on how long Hunt will be suspended for, but he will likely be out for at least six games, if not more. That means Johnson will get his time to prove to the front office how valuable he can be in Cleveland, even though he posted career lows in rushing yards (201) and receiving yards (429) last season.

In June 2018, Johnson signed a three-year, $15.61 million extension, and with the Browns having the fourth-most cap space in the NFL, that contract doesn’t do the team much damage. So, his contract isn’t something Dorsey needs to get off of the books.

Johnson’s skillset also opens to door for a potential move to slot receiver. In his first four NFL seasons, he has averaged 58 receptions per season. His 47 receptions last season was second most on the team, and his three touchdown catches ranked fifth most. Once Hunt returns, a transition outside of the backfield could be in the cards.

However, depth is the most important reason for hanging onto Johnson. Chubb’s injury history is unnerving, and while he will get the overwhelming majority of carries this season, he needs some time on the sideline every game. Having Johnson there to be another weapon for Baker Mayfield, and also to take some wear and tear off of Chubb until Hunt finds the field, is essential.

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While Johnson’s future past 2019 in Cleveland is still up in the air, the Browns need to keep do-it-all running back for at least one more season.

 

 

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