Kevin Johnson

Minor NFL Transactions: 1/13/21

Today’s minor transactions:

Arizona Cardinals

Atlanta Falcons

  • Activated off reserve/COVID-19 list: C Alex Mack

Cleveland Browns

Houston Texans

Browns Activate Denzel Ward, Kevin Johnson From Reserve/COVID-19 List

The Browns will have more of their regulars in uniform Sunday in Kansas City than they did in Pittsburgh last week. They activated cornerbacks Denzel Ward and Kevin Johnson off their reserve/COVID-19 list Wednesday.

Both players missed the past two games after testing positive for the coronavirus. NFL protocols would have permitted Ward to return last week, but he did not clear the necessary hurdles to return. The Browns beat the Steelers anyway, though Pittsburgh’s wide receivers enjoyed big days in Week 17 and in the teams’ opening-round matchup. The Chiefs are quite talented at this position as well.

An offseason addition, Johnson has operated as a part-time starter for the Browns. Ward has been the team’s No. 1 corner essentially since arriving in Cleveland in 2018. The Browns hope to have Joel Bitonio and wideout KhaDarel Hodge against the Chiefs as well.

Browns offensive line coach Bill Callahan also returned to practice Wednesday. The veteran NFL staffer experienced COVID symptoms, according to Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com, who adds Kevin Stefanski has encountered symptoms as well. However, Stefanski is expected to coach against the Chiefs. Wideouts coach Chad O’Shea was also symptomatic, per Cabot, but he is also back at practice. Assistant O-line coach Scott Peters, tight ends coach Drew Petzing and DBs coach Jeff Howard remain out due to COVID.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Denzel Ward To Miss Wild-Card Game

The Browns’ uphill battle in their first playoff game in 18 years became steeper Saturday. The team announced it will be without top cornerback Denzel Ward in Pittsburgh.

Ward will remain on the Browns’ reserve/COVID-19 list. So will fellow starting cornerback Kevin Johnson, who also tested positive last week. Both missing last week limited a Browns secondary in a game when Mason Rudolph threw for 315 yards and two touchdowns.

Based on his timeline, coronavirus protocols would have allowed Ward to suit up against the Steelers. But this would have required Ward being asymptomatic and passing the necessary tests. The third-year corner has not hit the necessary checkpoints, which will leave the Browns shorthanded Sunday night. The NFL found some COVID-19 spread within the Browns but did not move to postpone the AFC North playoff matchup.

However, the Browns will have some players back for their Steelers tilt. The team activated safety Ronnie Harrison, linebacker Malcolm Smith and tight end Harrison Bryant from its virus list. Harrison tested positive for COVID-19 on Thursday, but the NFL deemed it a false positive, Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com reports. Browns corner Terrance Mitchell was held out of practice Friday after testing positive, per Cabot, but that has also since been deemed a false positive.

The returns of Harrison, Smith and Bryant leave Ward, Johnson, Joel Bitonio and KhaDarel Hodge on Cleveland’s COVID list. Several coaches, however, will miss the game. Kevin Stefanski, offensive line coach Bill Callahan, assistant O-line coach Scott Peters, tight ends coach Drew Petzing and DBs coach Jeff Howard are out Sunday night. After coaching the Browns’ wide receivers last week, first-year Cleveland assistant Callie Brownson will coach tight ends this week, Aditi Kinkhabwala of NFL.com tweets.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Another Browns Coach Tests Positive For COVID-19

January 3, 8:02am: Browns CB Kevin Johnson was placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list last night, as Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal writes. He was supposed to start this afternoon’s critical matchup with Pittsburgh in place of Denzel Ward, who is also on the list. Instead, the club will rely on a combination of Terrance MitchellTavierre Thomas, M.J. Stewart, and Robert Jackson.

Cleveland also elevated UDFA rookie A.J. Green from the practice squad, who may start opposite Mitchell. Green has played one defensive snap this season.

January 2, 1:47pm: The Browns will be without both offensive line coaches Sunday. The team announced Bill Callahan and assistant O-line coach Scott Peters will not coach against the Steelers. Assistant Ryan Cordell will oversee Cleveland’s offensive front during the team’s win-and-in Week 17 assignment. Cordell spent five years with the 49ers, working as both a front office and coaching assistant, and is in his second season as a Browns football research analyst.

While the Browns will be down three coaches, they announced their latest round of contact tracing did not result in more players being identified as high-risk close contacts, Ulrich tweets.

January 2, 9:06am: There’s been another positive COVID-19 test on the Browns’ coaching staff, but as of right now, it doesn’t sound like it will impact Sunday’s game against the Steelers. NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo reports that the Browns had a positive test and have closed their facility (via Twitter). Josina Anderson tweets that the Browns will not practice this morning.

The Browns released a statement confirming the news (via Twitter):

“The Cleveland Browns were informed this morning that a member of their coaching staff has tested positive for COVID-19. The team will continue virtual meetings as the facility is currently closed while contact tracing is conducted. We will consult with league medical professionals on the appropriate next steps.”

Browns wide receivers coach Chad O’Shea had already been declared unavailable for tomorrow’s game after testing positive earlier this week. Despite the second positive test result, a source told Nate Ulrich of the Beacon Journal that there’s been no change to that status of tomorrow’s game (Twitter link).

This is obviously poor timing for Cleveland, as the Browns are on the verge of clinching their first playoff spot since the 2002 season. A win against Pittsburgh will secure that postseason appearance, but there are plenty of scenarios where Cleveland could make the playoffs with a loss tomorrow.

With O’Shea testing positive earlier this week, the Browns were forced to close their facilities. The team finally got their first full team practice in yesterday, and everyone understands the significance of preparing for tomorrow’s game.

“We have to be ready,” Browns wideout Jarvis Landry told Ulrich. “We have to win this game. There’s no secret about it.”

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Browns’ Kevin Johnson Suffers Liver Laceration

Browns cornerback Kevin Johnson was rushed to the hospital after suffering a liver laceration, per a club announcement. Johnson will remain under observation for at least another day.

Johnson joined the Browns on a one-year, $3.5MM deal earlier this year. So far, he’s been drawing rave reviews in camp, but the Browns may have to find CB3/nickelback support elsewhere while Johnson heals up. There’s no word yet on Johnson’s potential timetable for recovery.

The Texans backed out of Johnson’s fifth-year option in 2019, leading him to the Bills. The 2015 first-round pick played in all 16 games as a role player in Buffalo’s secondary, notching 36 tackles and five passes defensed.

Johnson managed to stay healthy last year while contributing as a reserve, a welcome change from his injury-filled Houston tenure. The 28-year-old missed ten games in 2016 and 15 games in 2018, the latter due to a severe concussion.

Denzel Ward and Greedy Williams will feature as the Browns’ top corners. As they await word on Johnson, they’ll also keep their fingers crossed for linebacker Mack Wilson, who may be done for the year with a hyperextended left knee.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Browns To Sign CB Kevin Johnson

The Browns are adding another former first-round defensive back on a one year deal. After signing safety Karl Joseph on Wednesday night, they have agreed to terms with former Round 1 cornerback Kevin Johnson.

Johnson and the Browns agreed on a one-year, $3.5MM deal, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (on Twitter). Incentives could spike the contract’s value to $6MM, Schefter adds.

The Texans backed out of Johnson’s fifth-year option in 2019, a move the new CBA will no longer allow teams to execute free of charge, and he wound up with the Bills. The 2015 first-round pick played in all 16 games as a role player in Buffalo’s secondary, recording 36 tackles and posting five passes defensed.

Despite being an off-the-bench contributor, Johnson stayed healthy in 2019. That proved to be pivotal for a cornerback that saw injuries derail his time in Houston. Johnson, 27, missed 10 games in 2016 and 15 in 2018. A severe concussion kept him out of action in ’18. He will join a Browns cornerback crew headed by Denzel Ward and Greedy Williams.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Broncos Interested In Kevin Johnson

The Broncos are targetting free agent slot cornerbacks in free agency with a particular focus on Kevin Johnson, according to Mike Klis of 9News. Denver has remained quiet on the defensive side of the ball thus far in free agency.

Johnson was a key part of the Bills strong defense this past season. Serving as the team’s slot corner, Johnson graded as the 23rd best corner (out of 113 qualified players), per Pro Football Focus, last season. Johnson previously played with the Texans from 2015-18.

Denver’s top cornerback, Chris Harris, remains a free agent himself. It will be worth watching whether Johnson is viewed as a fallback to failing to retain Harris or if the organization views Johnson (or another corner) as an upgrade.

Contract Details: McCourty, Williams, Lewis

Let’s take a look at the details of a few recently-signed contracts:

Bills To Sign Kevin Johnson

The Bills are expected to add free agent cornerback Kevin Johnson, a source tells Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter). The deal is pending a “final review of the contract,” according to Rapoport, but it sounds like the key parts of the deal are in place.

Concussions limited Johnson to just one game last season with the Texans and his physical could be more than just a formality in Buffalo. But, if Johnson gets the medical greenlight, he could prove to be a strong value addition for the Bills.

The former first-round pick has missed 29 out of a possible 64 games over the last four seasons. But, with two quality cornerbacks in Tre’Davious White and Levi Wallace, Johnson could provide valuable support on the outside. Armed with $77MM+ in cap space, the Bills had the room to make the upgrade.

Jets, Panthers Eyeing Kevin Johnson

Cornerback Kevin Johnson will visit the Jets on Friday night, according to league source who spoke with Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle (on Twitter). The Panthers, he adds, are also interested in the former Houston cornerback. 

[RELATED: Jets Tender Robby Anderson]

The Texans released Johnson earlier this week to escape the $9.069MM he was owed for 2019. That was a high price to pay after Johnson lost virtually all of the 2018 season to concussion issues, but plenty of other clubs have interest in him. Already, Johnson has met with the Bills and Browns.

Johnson, a 2015 first-round pick, has missed 29 out of a possible 64 games over the last four seasons. Still, he could profile as a low-risk, high-reward signing on an affordable one-year deal. For the Jets, he’d provide insurance behind Trumaine Johnson who sagged in his first year with the club.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.