Back during the NFL Scouting Combine, Cleveland Browns General Manager John Dorsey seemed to give a less than concrete answer regarding the future of veteran running back Duke Johnson, who has been increasingly taking a back seat in the offense.
Following the breakout rookie season of early second-round draft pick Nick Chubb during the previous year, the Browns also went out and signed former Pro Bowler Kareem Hunt, who is expected to be with the team after he serves a lengthy suspension.
In the midst of all of this, Johnson finally formally requested that the team trade him. Recently, Dorsey had the opportunity to address the Johnson question again, and he did not appear to be in any type of hurry to move him off the roster.
He told reporters that the coaching staff “sees him as a vital part of this offense moving forward” during yesterday’s pre-draft press conference. It’s worth noting that the vast majority of that coaching staff was not a part of this team last season, during which Johnson saw the smallest percentage of his usage in his career.
The primary consistency is Freddie Kitchens, who has experienced a meteoric rise since the middle of last season. He entered the year as the running backs coach but was promoted to offensive coordinator after the organization relieved Head Coach Hue Jackson and offensive coordinator Todd Haley of their duties.
Kitchens performed so well in that role that they ultimately promoted him to head coach this year, and he has said that he will retain the play-calling responsibilities that earned him the seat he now occupies. His usage did slightly tick upward after that point, but not significantly.
Dorsey said that he has been in contact with Johnson’s representation throughout this process, but it doesn’t appear as though anything is imminent. For the moment, the running back is not participating in the early portions of the Browns’ offseason, and they don’t know if he will be there for mandatory minicamp either.
Meanwhile, Hunt has been there, since his suspension will not kick in until the start of the regular season, and the team has even been hoping to petition the NFL to allow him to remain in contact with the team during that time.
Dorsey, who drafted Hunt while he was still with the Kansas City Chiefs, praised the running back for the growth that he has shown off the field so far, which is a critical component of his future in the NFL. He has been doing a lot of work in the community, no doubt at least in part aimed at improving his reputation, which is in desperate need of rehabilitation.