The Cleveland Browns continue to make moves as the league wraps up OTAs, signing ‘running back Duke Johnson to a new three-year extension. According to Ian Rapoport, the deal is worth $15.6 million and includes a $5 million signing bonus.
Terms: The #Browns are signing RB Duke Johnson to a 3-year contract extension worth $15.6M, source said. He gets a $5M signing bonus.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) June 7, 2018
I put running back in quotation marks because there’s a legitimate question about exactly what position he plays. While he predominantly lines up out of the backfield still, he is primarily used as a receiving option, and he even spent about a quarter of his time on passing plays lined up as a wide receiver.
Johnson played 567 snaps last season, but he might struggle to find playing time this season in spite of his new extension that one might assume indicates the intention to get him on the field. The Browns signed veteran running back Carlos Hyde in free agency and drafted Nick Chubb early in the second round.
According to Mary Kay Cabot, he “indicated he had received some reassurance from he powers-that-be that he’d stick around” despite those moves. “I believe that not only the staff, but the front office wants me here”, he said. “It’s just about both sides coming to an agreement”.
A third-round draft pick himself in 2015, Johnson has gotten his share of playing time, but has never been the workhorse. His highest number of touches came in his rookie season when the recorded 104 rushes for 379 yards and 61 receptions for 524 yards.
He rushed just 82 times in 2017 for 348 yards, but with a career-high four rushing touchdowns. He only had one rushing touchdown over the course of his first two seasons. He also set career-highs in the passing game with 74 receptions for 693 yards and three receiving touchdowns.
Johnson didn’t see a lot of time against the Pittsburgh Steelers last season, or at least touches. In the season opener, he actually exclusively played wide receiver, to the tune of 50 snaps, which accounted for the majority of his snaps in that regard for the season. It’s unclear why they very quickly abandoned that.
Nevertheless, he caught two passes for 20 yards in that game. He had six rushes for 20 yards and six receptions for 75 yards in the season finale against Pittsburgh, but he also lost a fumble in that game. It was one of four fumbles, and two lost, on the year, all of which occurred over the final seven games.
His highest carry total on the season came in Week 10 against the Detroit Lions. He carried the ball 10 times for 54 yards, including a 19-yard run, which was tied for his longest run of the season. He also added six receptions for 34 yards.
Johnson is only the second running back, along with Herschel Walker, to record over 500 receiving yards in each of his first three seasons. Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell, for those wondering, only had 399 receiving yards as a rookie, albeit in 13 games. He has three seasons of 600 or more receiving yards.