The Texans have acquired running back Duke Johnson from the Browns, Cleveland announced today. Houston will send a conditional 2020 fourth-round pick to Cleveland, tweets Tom Pelissero of NFL.com. If Johnson is active for 10 games with the Texans, the Browns will receive a 2020 third-rounder, per John McClain of the Houston Chronicle (Twitter link).
Johnson, of course, has been on the trade block ever since the Browns signed former Chiefs running back Kareem Hunt earlier this offseason. Hunt won’t be available until the second half of the 2019 season as a result of a suspension, but Johnson nevertheless formally requested a trade in April. At various points, Cleveland has indicated it would keep Johnson on its roster, but after the 25-year-old back fired his agent and hired Drew Rosenhaus, he finally got his wish.
Houston was on the hunt for depth at running back after waiving former third-round pick D’Onta Foreman earlier this week. With Foreman out of the picture, the Texans were planning to use Josh Ferguson and Buddy Howell (who have 30 career carries between them, all Ferguson’s) as Lamar Miller‘s backups.
Johnson handled 104 rushing attempts during his rookie campaign in Cleveland, but that figure represents a high-water mark. Playing behind Browns starter Nick Chubb in 2018, Johnson managed only 40 attempts, but did post 47 catches and was one of the NFL’s most efficient receiving backs, per Football Outsiders. Since entering the league in 2015, Johnson leads all running backs with 2,170 receiving yards, per Field Yates of ESPN.com (Twitter link), so he figures to see a good deal of work on third downs and other passing situations.
With Johnson out of the picture, the Browns will rely on unproven options Dontrell Hilliard and D’Ernest Johnson to backup Chubb until Hunt’s suspension is completed. But by dealing Johnson, Cleveland has further added to its stockpile of 2020 draft picks. General manager John Dorsey & Co. now boast 10 picks in 2020, including extra fourth-, sixth-, and seventh-rounders, tweets Pelissero.
The Texans will add Johnson on a highly team-friendly contract. The former third-round pick is due a base salary of just $1.8MM for the 2019 campaign, while he can also collect up to $400K in per-game roster bonuses. Houston will essentially hold club options on Johnson in both 2020 ($3.6MM) and 2021 ($4.65MM), and won’t incur any dead money if it cuts Johnson over the next two years. Cleveland, meanwhile, will immediately take on $750K in dead cap charges by dealing Johnson, with another $1.5MM hitting the club’s books in 2020.
Johnson is only the second running back to be traded this offseason. Jordan Howard was dealt from the Bears to the Eagles in March in a swap that saw Chicago receive just a sixth-round pick that can become a fifth-round pick based on Howard’s performance.
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