Duke Johnson

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.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

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.

North Notes: RGIII, Duke, Vikings

Ravens backup QB Robert Griffin III will miss four to eight weeks after suffering a hairline fracture in his right thumb Saturday night, as Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets. Baltimore is optimistic that RGIII will be ready for Week 1, but if he cannot return on the early side of his recovery timeline, he will miss at least some regular season time. The Ravens will surely sign a free agent signal-caller in short order, as the only other QB on the roster behind starter Lamar Jackson is sixth-round rookie Trace McSorley. Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic says Josh Johnson, who has been on Baltimore’s preseason roster before, makes the most sense (Twitter link).

Now for more from the league’s north divisions:

  • Browns RB Duke Johnson suffered a hamstring injury Saturday, and ESPN’s Josina Anderson reports that the ailment could force Johnson to miss some time (Twitter link). That will not help the fifth-year back in his quest to get traded out of Cleveland.
  • The way that Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin ran his field-goal drill Saturday — having incumbent Chris Boswell and challenger Matthew Wright alternate kicks rather than having Boswell take all of his tries before resetting the drill — is a departure from the way he has done things in the past, which suggests that Pittsburgh really is open to moving on from Boswell. Mark Kaboly of The Athletic still believes it’s more likely than not that Boswell will be kicking for the Steelers in 2019, but the pressure is definitely on.
  • Darren Wolfson of KSTP.com says that the Vikings have some interest in running back Theo Riddick, who was released by the Lions on Saturday (Twitter link). Minnesota does not have a visit set up at this time, though Riddick will meet with at least one other team in addition to his summit with the Saints.
  • Orlando Scandrick visited with the Vikings last week before signing with the Eagles, and Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press tweets that Minnesota did not extend a contract offer to Scandrick. The Vikes have worked out several CBs recently, and when asked whether the club would ultimately sign one, head coach Mike Zimmer said that’s ultimately up to GM Rick Spielman. Zimmer said, “we’re always looking for players. We’ll keep pounding the pavement” (Twitter link via Tomasson).

AFC Notes: Gordon, Daniels, Pats, Succop

After rounding up some news from the NFC earlier tonight, let’s check out the AFC:

  • Chargers GM Tom Telesco says he did offer an extension to RB Melvin Gordon, as Eric Williams of ESPN.com tweets, but there are no reports on how much the offer was worth. Gordon is holding out from camp and was put on the reserve/did not report list.
  • Before the Packers cut Mike Daniels earlier today, they discussed potential trades with the Browns, Patriots, and Chiefs, per Mike Garafolo of the NFL Network (video link). Garafolo suggests those teams will continue to pursue Daniels, but at least seven clubs have already been in contact with him.
  • Browns GM John Dorsey confirmed that he met with Duke Johnson‘s new agent, Drew Rosenhaus, on Tuesday, but Dorsey declined to say whether Johnson is still demanding a trade (via Josina Anderson of ESPN.com on Twitter). In related news, Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com reports RB Kareem Hunt will miss the start of training camp with a groin injury, though the injury is not believed to be serious.
  • The Patriots have placed veteran O-lineman Brian Schwenke on the reserve/retired list, per Mike Reiss of ESPN.com (via Twitter). Schwenke was taking first-team reps at left guard in the spring, but it sounds as if his career could be over.
  • Jets safety Marcus Maye is on the PUP list after undergoing offseason shoulder surgery, and Rich Cimini of ESPN.com says it’s not a sure thing that Maye will be ready to go by Week 1 (Twitter link). Head coach Adam Gase was non-committal when asked if Maye would miss any regular season action.
  • Titans K Ryan Succop had offseason knee surgery that did not go as well as planned, according to Paul Kuharsky of PaulKuharsky.com. The team has placed Succop on the PUP list, but he is expected to be ready for Week 1 at the latest.
  • Ravens first-round WR Marquise Brown could be getting closer to completing his comeback from a Lisfranc injury. Jamison Hensley of ESPN.com reports that Brown has passed his conditioning test and now needs to pass his physical (Twitter link). Hensley says it would not be surprising to see “Hollywood” on the field next week.

Latest On Browns, Duke Johnson

The Browns met with agent Drew Rosenhaus on Tuesday to discuss Duke Johnson‘s situation, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter). With Nick Chubb ahead of him and Kareem Hunt set to leapfrog him after an eight-game suspension, Johnson has demanded a trade to a team that will give him a featured role. 

So far, the Browns have held firm, stating publicly that they will keep the pass-catching specialist. Johnson, meanwhile, reported to minicamp in June, but his recent switch to Rosenhaus indicates that he wants to take a strong stand.

Rosenhaus has a solid working relationship with the Browns, as evidenced by the Emmanuel Ogbah trade earlier this year. Working with GM John Dorsey, Rosenhaus was able to get Ogbah to the Chiefs, where he’ll see plenty of playing time after Dee Ford‘s departure.

Browns training camp kicks off on Wednesday.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Extra Points: Gordon, Chargers, Browns

One of the biggest stories in the league over the past week has been the situation involving Melvin Gordon and the Chargers. Somewhat out of nowhere, we heard that Gordon was threatening a holdout and a trade demand unless he received a new contract from Los Angeles. The 2015 first-round pick is set to play out the final year of his contract under the fifth-year option. Gordon struck a somewhat conciliatory tone recently, saying that he wants to end up back with the Chargers at the end of the day. Sometimes disputes like this can cause locker room issues and other chemistry problems, but Gordon isn’t worried about that here.

In a sit-down interview with Sam Alipour of ESPN, Gordon said of his Chargers teammates, “they’re all behind me. They all got my back.” Gordon continued, saying “they all told me, ‘You know what — we don’t really speak on contracts — but you just go and do what’s best for your family.’ And I’m glad I got that support from them.” Running backs across the league have bonded together as they’ve seen their value get questioned by many in recent years, and Gordon said that he’s heard from a ton of them. “A lot. A lot of starters. A lot, a lot of backs,” have reached out to him “just saying go out and get what you deserve,” he revealed. Gordon will be an interesting case-study, as the Chargers likely don’t want to pay him top of the market money. Backs like Le’Veon Bell, Todd Gurley, and David Johnson have commanded in the area of $15MM annually, and Los Angeles seems hesitant to pay that much. As we’ve broken down, Gordon doesn’t have all that much leverage because he can’t sit out the season like Bell did without his contract tolling.

Here’s more from around the league: