Duke Johnson

Panthers Work Out RB Duke Johnson

Duke Johnson is wrapping a two-visit work week. The former Browns and Texans passing-down back worked out for the Panthers on Friday, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets. Johnson visited the 49ers on Monday.

While widespread uncertainty has gripped San Francisco’s backfield, the 49ers went in another direction. Carolina, however, will be without Christian McCaffrey for weeks due to the hamstring injury the All-Pro suffered Thursday night. Johnson could seemingly have an opportunity for a 3-0 team that now lacks a proven receiving back.

The Panthers have rookie Chuba Hubbard and former Broncos contributor Royce Freeman. The former did catch 20-plus passes in his first two seasons at Oklahoma State, but the Canadian back did drop a pass at the goal line Thursday. Freeman did not factor into the Broncos’ passing game much during his three Denver seasons.

Johnson has excelled in this role, eclipsing 400 receiving yards in his first five NFL seasons. The Jaguars cut the former third-round pick from their practice squad last week, and while the veteran resided in free agency for months after his February Texans release, multiple teams have kicked the tires on him recently.

The 28-year-old back signed a Browns extension in 2018 but saw the team’s subsequent Kareem Hunt addition lead him out of Cleveland. Johnson missed five games last season but was productive for the Texans in 2019, averaging 4.9 yards per carry and totaling 820 scrimmage yards.

Additionally, Carolina auditioned running backs Ito Smith, Dontrell Hilliard and B.J. Emmons, Field Yates of ESPN.com tweets. Hilliard, also primarily a passing-game option, joined Johnson on the 2018 Browns. Hilliard also played in two games for the Texans last season. Three teams — the Falcons, Cardinals and Vikings — cut Smith this offseason. Smith played three seasons with the Falcons, primarily functioning as a backup.

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49ers Meet With Duke Johnson, Lamar Miller

The 49ers’ running back search is underway. This week, the team will meet with T.J. Yeldon, Duke Johnson, and Lamar Miller in the wake of Raheem Mostert‘s season-ending injury. (Twitter link via Adam Schefter of ESPN.com). 

[RELATED: Raheem Mostert Done For Year]

Johnson caught on with the Jaguars earlier this month but was released after just nine days on the taxi squad. Johnson, 27, did not see the field during his lone week in Jacksonville, residing as an insurance option behind the likes of James Robinson, Carlos Hyde and Dare Ogunbowale. A former third-round pick, Johnson began his career with five straight seasons of 400-plus receiving yards. He topped out at 693 for the 2017 Browns, despite having started just 12 games in that span.

Miller has been on the market ever since he was released by Washington in August. The 2018 Pro Bowler, who has two 1,000-yard rushing seasons on his resume, has not been the same since his a torn ACL wiped out his 2019.

Yeldon, 26 in October, spent the offseason with the Bills. After a 182-carry rookie campaign, the former second-rounder ended his Jaguars stay as the team’s third-string running back behind Leonard Fournette and Carlos Hyde. Still, Yeldon managed a respectable 4.0 yards per carry last season and has hit the 5.0 ypc mark in the past.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Jaguars Release RB Duke Johnson

Duke Johnson‘s stay in Jacksonville may end up being brief. The Jaguars released the veteran running back from their practice squad Thursday, Field Yates of ESPN.com tweets.

After a lengthy free agent stay, the former Browns and Texans passing-down back caught on with the Jags last nine days ago. Johnson is now back on the market.

Johnson, 27, did not play against his former team in Week 1, residing as an insurance option behind the likes of James Robinson, Carlos Hyde and Dare Ogunbowale. The Jags also have Devine Ozigbo on their 16-man practice squad.

A former third-round pick, Johnson landed a midlevel extension with the Browns. The team traded its longtime outlet option to Houston during John Dorsey‘s GM tenure, which featured the Browns landing ex-rushing champion Kareem Hunt to pair with Nick Chubb, and Johnson played two seasons with the Texans. With the Texans changing regimes this offseason, Johnson ended up being released in February.

The former Miami Hurricane began his career with five straight seasons of 400-plus receiving yards, topping out at 693 for the 2017 Browns, despite having started just 12 games in that span.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Jaguars Sign Duke Johnson To Practice Squad

The Jaguars have added running back Duke Johnson to the practice squad. He’ll take the place of fellow RB Nathan Cottrell, who has been released from the 16-man squad.

Johnson made a name for himself with the Browns, where he averaged 4.3 yards per carry and, more importantly, did some serious damage as a receiver. Playing behind Browns starter Nick Chubb in 2018, Johnson managed only 40 carries, but did post 47 catches and was one of the NFL’s most efficient receiving backs, per Football Outsiders. From 2015 through 2018, Johnson led all running backs with 2,170 receiving yards.

He enjoyed a solid 2019 with the Texans, but wasn’t quite as efficient in the rushing game in 2020. His yards-per-tote average of 3.1 yards per carry didn’t move the needle much and he was hampered by injuries, including an ankle sprain. Meanwhile, new addition David Johnson managed 4.7 yards per run, plus 33 grabs for 314 yards. The Texans dropped him in February and he went unsigned until linking up with Urban Meyer & Co.

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Texans Cut Duke Johnson

The Texans have released running back Duke Johnson, as Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets. The move will save Houston roughly $5.025MM in cap room for the coming year. 

[RELATED: JJ Watt Received Offer Worth $15MM-$16MM?]

The Texans traded for Johnson in 2019, sending a conditional draft pick to Cleveland in exchange for the veteran tailback. With more than ten games on the active roster that year, the conditional fourth-rounder turned into a third-round pick.

All in all, Johnson rushed for 645 yards and three TDs on the ground. He also hauled in 72 catches for 659 yards by air, and four receiving TDs, showcasing the soft hands that made him a notable name in Cleveland. This past year, he wasn’t quite as efficient in the rushing game, however. His yards-per-tote average of 3.1 yards per carry didn’t move the needle much and he was hampered by injuries, including an ankle sprain. Meanwhile, new addition David Johnson managed 4.7 yards per run, plus 33 grabs for 314 yards.

Johnson (Duke, that is) won’t turn 28 until September. He shouldn’t have difficulty finding a new job, though he may have to settle for less than his previous three-year, $15.61MM deal given the current climate.

For what it’s worth, David Johnson isn’t guaranteed to stick around either. Even though he enjoyed a bounce back year, he’s set to earn nearly $8MM in base salary this year with just $2.1MM locked in. The rebuilding Texans may choose to move on from him, especially if Deshaun Watson gets his trade request fulfilled.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Duke Johnson To Miss Time

The Texans will be without Duke Johnson for at least a little while. The running back is considered “week-to-week” with an ankle sprain suffered in Thursday night’s loss to the Chiefs, as Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets

[RELATED: Texans Tried To Sign Clowney]

Johnson is unlikely to suit up against the Ravens, but he could be good to go for Week 3 vs. the Steelers. The Texans will monitor his progress in the interim and likely lean even more on new starter David Johnson. The former Cardinals star seems like he’s up to the challenge after notching 109 all-purpose yards and a touchdown in the season opener. If things drag longer than expected, the Texans could call up former Seahawks notable C.J. Prosise from the taxi squad.

Johnson exited Thursday night’s contest after just five carries. In the long run, the expectation is that Johnson will serve as a pass-catching complement to Houston’s other D. Johnson. Duke Johnson managed 4.9 yards per carry in his first season with the Texans to go along with 44 catches for 410 yards. It was an admittedly small sample size, but the soon-to-be 27-year-old showed that he can be a real contributor in the backfield.

In other Texans news, we recently learned that Bill O’Brien explored a reunion with edge rusher Jadeveon Clowney. Ultimately, the Titans beat out the Texans, Jaguars, Ravens, Saints, and other interested clubs for the former No. 1 overall pick.

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Browns Notes: Johnson, Garrett Interview, Contract

Running back Duke Johnson was acquired by the Texans from the Browns earlier this year for a conditional draft pick. Johnson has met the conditions in the agreement so Cleveland will receive Houston’s third-round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

Johnson was holding out for the duration of the offseason attempting to force his way out of Cleveland. The Browns honored his request in the first week of August after they found an amenable agreement with Houston. Since joining the Texans this season, Johnson has appeared in every game of the season for the Texans, rushing for 287 yards on 54 carries, while hauling in 22 receptions for 228 yards.

Here’s more from around the Browns notes:

  • Suspended Browns defensive end Myles Garrett had agreed to an interview with Jay Glazer of Fox Sports, but Cleveland’s higher ups called the first overall pick in the 2017 Draft into their office and told him he could not do the interview, per Glazer. After Garrett’s unprecedented fight against the Steelers, which included swinging a helmet at quarterback Mason Rudolph‘s bare head, it would obviously be valuable to hear from the rusher. However, the team is also working in its best interest being cautious with Garrett’s persona given the drama surrounding his current situation.
  • Garrett’s suspension will obviously cost him a substantial amount of money, but Jason Fitzgerald of Over The Cap details the specific ramifications for the young star. Fitzgerald notes that recent changes in rookie contract structures that have de-emphasized signing bonuses and placed more emphasis on base salaries has cost Garrett and could have ramifications for prospects in the future.

South Notes: Ramsey, Texans, Kamara, Bucs

Throughout the offseason, John Dorsey insisted he wanted Duke Johnson on the 2019 Browns. But the Texans‘ decision to offer what will likely become a third-round pick — assuming Johnson plays at least 10 games this season — was clearly a proposal the Browns could not refuse. The consensus around the NFL placed the passing-down back’s value at being worth a fifth-rounder in a trade, per Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports (on Twitter). The Browns getting a likely Day 2 pick is, then, quite the haul. That said, the Texans needed help behind Lamar Miller and now have a running back under contract through 2021.

The GM-less Texans had Bill O’Brien running point on this trade. The sixth-year HC spoke with Dorsey and pulled the trigger, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com reports (on Twitter). With O’Brien clearly having a say in the Jadeveon Clowney process, and the team opting not to hire a GM this year, it is not surprising the post-Brian Gaine Texans have him operating in a key personnel capacity. This marks another notable trade between these franchises, who made 2017 swaps in deals that sent Brock Osweiler (and a second-round pick) to Cleveland and Deshaun Watson to Houston. But the parties who negotiated those deals, GMs Sashi Brown and Rick Smith, are out of the picture.

Here is the latest from the South divisions:

  • Jalen Ramsey is under Jaguars control through the 2020 season, thanks to the fifth-year option the team exercised this spring. But the contract-seeking cornerback has not exactly been pleased with the franchise as of late, considering his 2018 team-imposed suspension and the high-end corner still attached to his rookie contract. When asked by Titans tackle Taylor Lewan and former Titans linebacker Will Compton (during the duo’s “Bussin’ with the Boys podcast, via the Florida Times-Union) about where he would like to play if he left Jacksonville, Ramsey responded by saying he would like to go to the Titans or the Raiders. Ramsey is a Nashville-area native and said he would be attracted to Las Vegas. The standout corner, set to play for $3.6MM this season, continues to stir the pot.
  • After going down in a Buccaneers practice this week, Vita Vea will get a knee MRI on Friday, Jenna Laine of ESPN.com tweets. The Bucs hope their second-year nose tackle suffered an LCL sprain, per Mike Garafolo of NFL.com (on Twitter). Vea missed three games due to injury as a rookie.
  • With Mark Ingram out due to suspension to start last season, the Saints played Alvin Kamara on 82% of their snaps. The rest of the way in 2018: Kamara played 61% of New Orleans’ offensive plays. Sean Payton prefers the latter work rate, despite Ingram’s defection to Baltimore, Mike Triplett of ESPN.com notes. “Look, is one player taking exactly Mark Ingram’s reps? I can’t tell you that right now,” Payton said. “And yet I think there’s that presumption that Alvin’s going to get more. And I think our pitch count and how we’ve played and utilized him has been really good.” Kamara received 201 touches in 2017 and 275 last season; he cleared 1,500 scrimmage yards in each. Latavius Murray will be his backfield mate this season. The Saints also added Jacquizz Rodgers recently.
  • The Bucs worked out rookie UDFA defensive lineman Shane Bowman on Thursday morning, Greg Auman of The Athletic tweets. The Jaguars waived Bowman earlier this summer.

Texans Acquire RB Duke Johnson

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.

[RELATED: Full List of 2019 NFL Trades]

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.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC North Notes: Tomlin, Ravens, Browns

Let’s take a quick look at the latest happenings from the AFC North, starting in Pittsburgh:

  • The Steelers gave Mike Tomlin a one-year extension (through 2021) instead of their usual two-year re-ups, and this one does not have an option for a future year. But the 13th-year Steelers sideline boss does not look to be on shaky ground, despite the franchise missing the playoffs last season and parting ways with two of the most talented players in team history this year. Tomlin, 47, also has no plans to walk away any time soon. “He certainly hasn’t put any sticker date on himself, and neither have we,” Steelers owner Art Rooney said, via Albert Breer of SI.com. “He’s still a relatively young guy in the coaching profession and has certainly as much energy and enthusiasm as he’s ever had. So I don’t think there’s any particular window that he’s going to coach through. He hasn’t given me any indication that he’s got any date in mind.”
  • The Ravens boast one of the NFL’s premier secondaries and auditioned another Pro Bowler who could potentially fill a role there. Safety Brynden Trawick worked out for his former team recently, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. Trawick is known more for his special teams acumen, having made the 2017 Pro Bowl as a Titans special-teamer. But Trawick began his career in Baltimore, the former UDFA playing three seasons with the Ravens from 2013-15.
  • Duke Johnson‘s agent was in Berea, Ohio, this week to discuss his client’s complicated situation with the Browns. Drew Rosenhaus met with John Dorsey and assistant GM Eliot Wolf, Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com notes. Dorsey maintains the Browns are not going to trade Johnson, who has requested to be dealt out of Cleveland. For now, the passing-down back remains sidelined with a hamstring injury — one that could keep him out “a little while,” Cabot adds.
  • It looks like the best-case scenario for A.J. Green is a late-September return. Zac Taylor acknowledged the Bengals will likely be without their Pro Bowl wideout to start the season.