D’Ernest Johnson

AFC North Rumors: Trubisky, Apple, Pratt, Johnson

With Lamar Jackson, Joe Burrow, and Deshaun Watson (tentatively) being cemented behind center in Baltimore, Cincinnati, and Cleveland, respectively, Pittsburgh is working to name their starting quarterback to open the 2022 NFL season. According to Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the current situation points towards free agent acquisition Mitchell Trubisky being named the starter for the Steelers’ season opener in Cincinnati.

On 105.7 The Fan, Dulac was quoted saying, “I think the plan is, and I don’t think there is any question about this, unless something would dictate otherwise including injury, I think Mitch Trubisky will go into the regular season as the starter.” He continued, “NFL teams don’t draft quarterbacks No. 1 to have them be the third quarterback and a gameday scratch. I expect Kenny Pickett to be the guy who dresses on gameday (as the primary backup).”

When asked where that leaves five-year veteran Mason Rudolph, Dulac thinks the Steelers will have “a little bit more respect than to keep him around as the third quarterback and a gameday scratch.” Dulac believes Pittsburgh would rather have the two parties mutually move on and try to find him a trade to a desirable location.

Here are a few other rumors from around the AFC North, starting with a couple rumors from the division (and conference) champions from last year:

  • When detailing some training camp position battles in Cincinnati this summer, Paul Dehner Jr. of The Athletic asserted that six-year veteran cornerback Eli Apple will be favored to keep his starting job over rookie second-round pick Cam Taylor-Britt. After the rollercoaster start of his career, Apple played well last year for the Bengals. Despite the team spending heavy draft-capital on his position by drafting Taylor-Britt early, Apple has reportedly responded very well to the pressure and kept his eye on the ball. Taylor-Britt may eventually unseat the incumbent, but, for now, expect to see Apple across from Diontae Johnson or Chase Claypool to open the season this September.
  • Expanding further on the Bengals’ offseason to-do list, Dehner Jr. reported on some possible extension candidates in Cincinnati, claiming that, for now, the Bengals don’t view linebacker Germaine Pratt as an extension candidate. Since Cincinnati selected him in the third-round of 2019, Pratt has been a formidable defender, racking up 76 tackles as a rookie as well as 89 and 91 tackles in the two seasons since. Despite his defensive tenacity, it doesn’t appear that Pratt does quite enough to force an early decision from the Bengals on his future. Instead, Pratt will want to put together a contract year that will either convince Cincinnati to keep him around or convince another franchise to spend big to bring him in. The Bengals will allow him to play out the last year of his rookie deal and assess his value before free agency.
  • Despite the recent one-year deal running back D’Ernest Johnson signed earlier this month to remain in Cleveland, ESPN’s Jake Trotter believes that Johnson could still potentially find himself as the odd man out of a loaded running back room for the Browns. With Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt cemented as 1-2 at running back, Johnson is competing with 2021 draft pick Demetric Felton and 2022 Draft pick Jerome Ford for playing time behind them. Since both Felton and Ford offer versatility to rush and receive out of the backfield, along with cheap rookie deals, it’s not out of the question to imagine Johnson on the outside looking in. In this case, the Browns may want to find a trade-partner to take Johnson and make sure they don’t completely waste the deal they awarded him weeks ago.

Latest On D’Ernest Johnson’s Browns Deal

A little over a week ago, the Browns reached an agreement to re-sign running back D’Ernest Johnson to a one-year deal. Pro Football Focus’ Doug Kyed reported some details on the contract. 

Johnson’s deal is billed as a one-year, $2.43MM contract. The deal will have a base salary of $1.07MM with a guaranteed amount of $729,125 and a signing bonus of $151,500. It is unclear from Kyed’s breakdown if the reported guaranteed amount includes the signing bonus or if it is an additional guaranteed portion of the base salary.

Johnson will also have the ability to increase the maximum value of the contract through a number of performance-based incentives. He can earn an additional $450K if he reaches 545 rushing yards and can up that bonus to $608,250 if he can get to 670 rushing yards. Likewise, Johnson can earn an additional $450K if he reaches 700 total yards from scrimmage and can increase that bonus to $608,250 if he can total 835 yards from scrimmage. The achievement of earning any of these incentive bonuses would represent career-highs in either category for Johnson.

The Browns had placed a $2.43MM restricted free agent tender on Johnson in March. The base salary ($1.07MM), the signing bonus ($151,500), and the two maximum incentive bonuses ($608,250 each) make up that $2.43MM amount.

Browns Reach Agreement With RB D’Ernest Johnson

The Browns showed their interest in retaining running back D’Ernest Johnson when they gave him an RFA tender. Today, they have come to terms with him on a one-year deal (Twitter link via ESPN’s Adam Schefter).

The contract is worth up to $2.433MM – the exact amount of this year’s right of first refusal tender. However, as detailed by Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal (on Twitter), this is a new deal, rather than a matter of Johnson simply signing the tender. The pact includes $900K in guaranteed money.

The 26-year-old has been with the Browns since 2019. He saw a significant amount of playing time on special teams, including opportunities as both a punt and kick returner. That continued the following year, but he did see a slight uptick in offensive snaps as well. It was in 2021 that he took a significant step forward in terms of production.

Appearing in all 17 games (including two starts), the former UDFA turned 100 carries into 534 rushing yards and three touchdowns; he added another 137 off of 19 receptions. For the third straight season, he averaged no fewer than five yards per carry, though that figure holds much more weight in the context of his 2021 workload. Given that efficiency, it came as little surprise that the Browns tendered him.

Still, the fact that Johnson sits third on the team’s RB depth chart (behind Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt) makes this move a relatively expensive one. Cleveland currently has Chubb on one of the most lucrative deals in the league at the position, along with Hunt under contract for one more season at a cap hit of $6.25MM. The latter is still part of the team’s long-term plans, despite the presence of Johnson, Demetric Felton and fifth round rookie Jerome Ford. For the upcoming campaign, Johnson will remain a proven depth option available for at least a rotational role.

RFA/ERFA Tender Decisions: 3/11/22

The deadline for teams to extend tender offers to their restricted free agents and exclusive rights free agents looms next week. We’ll keep tabs on the latest here:

RFAs

Tendered:

ERFAs

Tendered:

Non-tendered:

NFL COVID-19 List Updates: 1/8/22

Today’s updates for the reserve/COVID-19 and practice squad/COVID-19 lists:

Cleveland Browns

Dallas Cowboys

Detroit Lions

Minnesota Vikings

New Orleans Saints

New York Jets

Pittsburgh Steelers

San Francisco 49ers

Seattle Seahawks

Washington Football Team

Minor NFL Transactions: 5/16/19

We’ll keep track of today’s minor moves here:

Baltimore Ravens

  • Signed: G R.J. Prince
  • Waived: G Kofi Amichia, TE Nick Keizer

Chicago Bears

Cleveland Browns

  • Signed: D’Ernest Johnson
  • Waived: RB L.J. Scott

Los Angeles Chargers

Los Angeles Rams

  • Waived: WR Justin Sumpter

Miami Dolphins

New England Patriots

San Francisco 49ers

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

  • Signed: WR Bryant Mitchell
  • Waived: LS Dan Godsil

Tennessee Titans