Cleveland Browns running back Duke Johnson’s name has been connected with trade rumors for a while now, going back since at least the 2019 NFL Scouting Combine, during which General Manager John Dorsey more or less hedged on whether or not the team would ultimately move the veteran after adding Kareem Hunt.
It helps that later on Johnson also formally requested a trade. But since then, Dorsey has taken a different tone and been much more emphatic about the team’s desire to keep him, working alongside second-year starter Nick Chubb and the former Pro Bowler in Hunt when he returns from suspension.
New rumors surfaced when it was indicated that the Browns may pursue a trade for Tampa Bay Buccaneers Pro Bowl defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, whose name has also been connected to trade rumors this offseason. The Buccaneers could potentially be in the market for a running back, so understandably Johnson’s name came up
Dorsey went on the radio yesterday, however, and over the course of the interview once again denied any interest on the team’s part in trading the running back. “I keep telling you guys and you all don’t listen to me”, he said, according to Keith Britton. “Duke Johnson is a viable member of this organization. He’s very talented. This organization has plans to use him”.
Johnson has been a highly productive contributor over the course of his career when he has been given the opportunity to touch the ball, either running the ball or catching it, but he has been given fewer and fewer opportunities, seeing a career-low in 2018, both before and after Carlos Hyde was traded in the middle of the year.
Cleveland signed Johnson to a fairly lucrative extension last offseason, and then signed Hyde. It seems for a long time now that the team, regardless of who has been coaching him, has been underutilizing him. That includes Freddie Kitchens, the team’s new head coach, who served as interim offensive coordinator for the second half of last season after Todd Haley was fired.
But he now has a full offseason to rebuild his team, as well as his offense, and the philosophy he will carry with it. He will retain play-calling duties, something that he revealed himself during his first press conference as head coach back during the winter. Will he actually use Johnson more?
He had just 40 carries last season, but he produced 201 yards on the ground at just over five yards per carry. He has 299 rushes in his career for 1286 yards and five touchdowns, for of which came in 2017. His 47 receptions in 2018 were also a career-low despite remaining efficient with 429 yards and three touchdowns. He has 235 receptions on his four seasons for 2170 yards and eight touchdowns through the air.