September 24th, 2021 at 3:45pm CST by Sam Robinson
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 McCaffreyfor 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.
Several of these players will be invited to stick around on Las Vegas’ practice squad, with the NFL greenlighting a second year of 16-man taxi squads. The Raiders’ cutting Brown and Doss keeps Willie Snead and Zay Jones on their active roster. Johnson played a part-time role on the Raiders’ defense last season, while Carrier has been with the team for the past four years. The Raiders re-signed him in March. Wreh-Wilson was aiming to catch on for a ninth NFL season, and while the former Titans and Falcons cornerback may do so, the Raiders halted his effort to land on their initial 53-man roster.
Seattle drafted just three players this year, having sent its first- and third-round picks to the Jets in 2020’s Jamal Adams deal. The Seahawks’ large (for 2021) UDFA class includes a few under-the-radar prospects. The 10th overall pick in this year’s CFL draft, Lestage will give the NFL a try first. Both Johnson and Mills were Division I-FCS All-Americans.
Scouts Inc. viewed the 6-foot-2, 207-pound Terry as a fifth-round prospect. In 13 2019 games, the Seminoles receiver caught 60 passes for 1,188 yards and nine touchdowns. Although the Seahawks drafted a receiver (D’Wayne Eskridge) in Round 2, they figure to have competition for backup roles. Josh Johnson surpassed 1,200 rushing yards in 2019, averaging 6.5 per carry, while Emmons was initially an Alabama recruit who transferred to the Conference USA program. The Seahawks re-signed Chris Carson but lost Carlos Hyde in free agency and did not pick up Rashaad Penny‘s fifth-year option.
Hocker joins Texans UDFAsCarson Greenand Ryan McCollumas Texas A&M O-linemen to land post-draft deals. The Steelers drafted ex-Aggies tackle Dan Moore Jr.in Round 4. Hocker worked as a guard with the SEC team. Curhan started 40 games at tackle for the Golden Bears; he will join sixth-round tackle Stone Forsytheas a rookie edge blockers with the Seahawks. Eiland received starts at both tackle positions and right guard for the Bulldogs.