Duke Johnson

RB Duke Johnson Announces Retirement

Boasting an eight-year career spanning time with five NFL franchises, running back Duke Johnson is now known as one of the league’s best receiving backs in recent history. Having not appeared on an NFL roster since the end of the 2022 season, the now 30-year-old Johnson has made the decision to officially hang up his cleats, announcing this retirement decision on Instagram.

Johnson came to the league after a storied career at the University of Miami. A five-star recruit, Johnson became an immediate factor as a true freshman, rushing for 947 yards for 10 touchdowns and adding one score through the air and two more on kickoff returns. After a junior season that saw him rush for 1,652 yards and 10 touchdowns and receive for 421 yards and three touchdowns, Johnson announced that he would forgo his final year of eligibility and declare for the draft.

Johnson left Coral Gables as the Hurricanes’ all-time leader in career rushing yards, despite only playing for three seasons. The school has produced such NFL rushers as Chuck Foreman, Ottis Anderson, Cleveland Gary, Edgerrin James, Clinton Portis, Najeh Davenport, Willis McGahee, Frank Gore, and Lamar Miller. Johnson outgained them all at the collegiate level and holds that record to this day.

Johnson was selected by the Browns in the third round of the 2015 NFL Draft. He was the sixth rusher taken off the board behind Todd Gurley, Melvin Gordon, T.J. Yeldon, Ameer Abdullah, and Tevin Coleman and was taken just nine picks before David Johnson.

As a rookie, Duke split starting duties with second-year back Isaiah Crowell while also serving as the team’s primary receiving back. The two would continue in those roles for the next two years. Johnson made the most with the carries he was granted, averaging 4.3 yards per carry over his years in Cleveland, but he truly shined as a receiver for the Browns.

During that 2015 season, Johnson finished third on the team in receiving yards behind only tight end Gary Barnidge and wide receiver (and fellow Hurricane) Travis Benjamin. He was third on the team in 2016, as well. In 2017, though, Johnson was actually the Browns’ leading receiver with 74 catches for 693 yards. His 348 rushing yards that year helped him to lead the team in scrimmage yards, and his seven total touchdowns were the most on Cleveland’s roster that year. His efforts earned him a three-year, $15.61MM contract extension.

In 2018, the arrival of a rookie Nick Chubb and a veteran Carlos Hyde saw a huge cut to Johnson’s carries, though he still averaged 5.0 yards per rush. He still proved a major asset as a receiver, as well, with 62 catches for 429 yards, but with the emergence of Chubb, Johnson became an unnecessary cost. Cleveland traded Johnson to the Texans in exchange for a conditional fourth-rounder that ended up turning into the third-round pick the Browns would use to draft Jacob Phillips.

Hyde would follow Johnson to Houston and would take RB1 duties, though Johnson would still contribute with 410 rushing yards and 410 receiving yards. The Texans would trade for David Johnson in 2020. A talented receiving back in his own right, David’s acquisition led to diminished usage of Duke. Houston would cut Johnson at the end of the season.

Over the final two years of his career, Johnson saw minimal usage as he spent time on the Jaguars’ practice squad, started four of five game appearances for the Dolphins in 2021, and was a practice squad elevation for one game for the Bills in 2022. Those final two years were the first of his career in which the running back had more rushing than receiving yards.

That fact perhaps underlines the feats of Johnson’s career. Despite his rushing pedigree at Miami, Johnson came into the NFL and provided his talents as a bailout option for the league’s worst team at the time, getting utilized early and often. Since his arrival in Cleveland in 2015, only Jarvis Landry, David Njoku, and Amari Cooper have more receiving yards for the Browns over that period.

Circumstances prevented Johnson from ever taking a leading back role in his career, but the 30-year-old made the most of every opportunity he was granted, regardless of the role he was assigned. Though other backs tended to earn carries over him, Johnson was hard to keep off the field thanks to his impressive receiving abilities. He ends his NFL career with 2,265 rushing yards for 11 touchdowns and 2,870 receiving yards for 12 touchdowns.

Bills Elevate CB Xavier Rhodes, RB Duke Johnson From Practice Squad; No QB Elevated

Two veterans that have been stashed on the Bills practice squad are set to make their season debuts for the team this week. Buffalo has elevated cornerback Xavier Rhodes and running back Duke Johnson for this weekend’s matchup against the Vikings.

The Bills are extremely deep at cornerback, but an injury to first-round rookie Kaiir Elam has him currently listed as doubtful going into Sunday. With Elam out, Dane Jackson would be expected to start opposite Tre’Davious White at cornerback, with Taron Johnson and Siran Neal providing key snaps off the bench. That’s still a reliable amount of depth but adding the veteran Rhodes will provide the Bills with just a bit more security if Elam can’t play.

This has been an interestingly quiet season for Rhodes, who started at least 13 games in every season dating back to his sophomore season before this year. The longtime shutdown cornerback for the Vikings spent two years doing more of the same in Indianapolis before signing to the Bills practice squad in the offseason. After eight years as a fulltime starter, coming in off the practice squad is an unfamiliar role for the 32-year-old.

The Bills traded for another former Colt in running back Nyheim Hines at the deadline in an attempt to bring in a back who can catch passes out of the backfield, something that the team was lacking with Devin Singletary, Zack Moss, and James Cook. The elevation of Johnson from the practice squad may indicate that Hines is not totally comfortable enough with the playbook to take hold of that role yet.

Johnson spent the majority of his career as one of the league’s premier pass-catching running backs. Over his career, Johnson has more receiving yards (2,870) than rushing yards (2,261). He’s an effective weapon, even at 29-years-old, that the Bills have kept stashed on the practice squad all year. Johnson was given an opportunity to start for a depleted Dolphins team last year and rewarded them with two 100-yard rushing performances and three touchdowns in four starts.

Many, including NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, noted that Buffalo was not elevating quarterback Matt Barkley, indicating that the team is confident that starter Josh Allen will be able to play after sustaining an elbow sprain last week. Allen had been limited in practice this week but was able to grip the ball and provide enough for the Bills staff to show that he can start.

Wednesday NFL Transactions: AFC East

Following the 53-man roster cutdown deadline Tuesday, many teams will make slight tweaks to their rosters. In addition to waiver claims, teams can begin constructing their 16-man practice squads today. These BillsDolphins, Jets and Patriots moves are noted below.

Here are Wednesday’s AFC East transactions, which will continue to be updated throughout the day.

Buffalo Bills

Placed on IR:

Signed to practice squad:

Miami Dolphins

Signed to practice squad:

New England Patriots

Signed to practice squad:

New York Jets

Signed to practice squad:

Bills Set 53-Man Roster

After waiving six players yesterday, the Bills cut 18 more players today to get themselves down to the 53-man roster limit:



Placed on reserve/PUP:

Placed on reserve/suspended:

We heard about some of Buffalo’s bigger moves earlier today, including the release of O.J. Howard and Duke Johnson. Greg Mancz is one of the most experienced players to get cut, with the veteran having appeared in 63 games across seven NFL seasons. His positional versatility was expected to land him a roster spot as a backup offensive lineman, but the team ultimately opted for a younger option. Mancz certainly didn’t help his case when he missed the preseason finale while recovering from a foot injury suffered during practice.

Tanner Gentry and Alec Anderson are both candidates to return to Buffalo via the practice squad. Gentry has bounced on and off the Bills roster over the previous two seasons without getting into a game. Anderson started 10 games at UCLA last year before landing with the Bills as an undrafted rookie.

Matt Barkley has spent the past four seasons in Buffalo. He got into eight games with the Bills between 2018 and 2020, completing 53 of his 97 pass attempts for 788 yards, three touchdowns, and four interceptions. He was demoted to QB3 in 2021 following the acquisition of Mitchell Trubisky, and Barkley didn’t end up seeing the field last year. He was eyeing a similar role in 2022 with Case Keenum now serving as Josh Allen‘s primary backup.

Bills To Release O.J. Howard, Duke Johnson

The list of notable names being released continues to grow. The Bills are parting ways with veteran tight end O.J. Howard, reports ESPN’s Adam Schefter (Twitter link). In a separate tweet, he also confirms that running back Duke Johnson is being released. 

Neither moves comes as a complete surprise given recent developments. Howard had put forth underwhelming performances in training camp and the preseason; the fact that he was receiving a large workload with the team’s backups and third-stringers led to speculation last week that he could be on the outside looking in during roster cuts. Given the maximum value of the one-year deal Howard signed in Buffalo ($5MM), a trade always seemed unlikely in this situation.

The former first-rounder spent five seasons with the Buccaneers, putting up consistent numbers during his first three years. His career-high of 34 catches and 565 yards has never been improved upon, however, leading to his departure in free agency and arrival in Buffalo as a backup to Dawson Knox.

The move points to Quintin Morris and Tommy Sweeney taking on larger roles as rotational players behind Knox. Howard, meanwhile, will need to quickly find a new landing spot, where a depth role (and, presumably, a much less lucrative deal) will again be the target. Buffalo will save $2.25MM by releasing him.

The situation is different for Johnson. As Schefter notes, the Bills are eyeing a return for the veteran on their practice squad if he declines to sign elsewhere. The team has been projected to use a three-man committee of Devin Singletary, Zack Moss and second-round rookie James Cook. That trio, not to mention QB Josh Allen, left a rather narrow path to the 53-man squad for Johnson.

The 28-year-old began his career in Cleveland, where he posted 1,000 scrimmage yards for the first (and only) time in 2017. He has since played in Houston and, beginning late last season, Miami. With a 4.6 yards per carry average during the latter stop, he demonstrated value as at least a quality backup – something he is more likely to become elsewhere. As a vested veteran, he is not subject to waivers and can sign anywhere in free agency.

Dolphins Notes: Running Backs, Offensive Line, Tagovailoa

The Dolphins were busy reworking their running backs depth chart during the offseason. After signing the likes of Chase Edmonds, Sony Michel, and Raheem Mostert, the team didn’t have much room for another veteran. Speaking to Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald, running back Duke Johnson said Miami never offered him a contract in free agency.

The veteran had a productive five-game stint with the Dolphins in 2021. After making a name for himself in the passing game, Johnson averaged 66 rushing yards per game…a leap from his 23.6-yard career mark. The 28-year-old RB ultimately finished the campaign with 371 yards from scrimmage and three scores on 75 touches. The organization initially expressed interest in re-signing Johnson following the season, but Mike McDaniel’s hiring ultimately changed the team’s plans.

“They just wanted to go in a different direction,” Johnson said. “I figured McDaniel wanted his guys; Raheem Mostert is one of his guys. I know the nature of the business. No hard feelings.”

Johnson ended up landing a one-year deal with the Bills in March.

More notes out of Miami…

  • When the Dolphins signed Connor Williams this offseason, it was expected that the lineman would slide in at left guard. However, ESPN’s Marcel Louis-Jacques writes that Williams is now the front runner to start at center. The 25-year-old trained at the position throughout the offseason to help improve his versatility, and it seems like it worked. Incumbent starter Michael Deiter is still in the picture, but Louis-Jacques opines that the starting center gig is Williams’ to lose.
  • ESPN’s Todd McShay recently opined that 2022 is a prove-it year for Tua Tagovailoa, and if the QB fails, the Dolphins are in a good position to pursue one of next year’s top QB prospects. Jackson quickly dismisses that notion, however. In the hypothetical where Tagovailoa does fail and the Dolphins decide to pivot next offseason, their various assets may not be enough to pull off a trade. While the Dolphins have an extra first-round pick thanks to a trade with San Francisco, Jackson writes that few teams would be interested in bailing on a franchise quarterback for a platter of middling firsts…especially when the majority of the teams that could be in contention for a top pick would all have their own QB issues.
  • When asked which AFC team had the best offseason, PFR readers ranked the Dolphins third. Besides their blockbuster acquisition of wideout Tyreek Hill, the Dolphins also brought in offensive tackle Terron Armstead, extended cornerback Xavien Howard, and re-signed defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah. The Broncos finished first in the poll, with the Raiders finishing second.

Bills, RB Duke Johnson Agree To Deal

The Bills could not pry J.D. McKissic from Washington, though the sides were believed to have an agreement. Buffalo will instead pivot to an AFC veteran back.

Duke Johnson is signing a one-year deal with the Bills, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets. The veteran pass-catching back will come over from the Dolphins, who have added multiple starter-caliber backs since free agency opened.

Formerly with the Browns and Texans, Johnson spent much of the 2021 season off the radar. But he resurfaced with the Dolphins down the stretch. Johnson ripped off two 100-yard rushing performances with Miami, helping the team to wins over the Jets and Patriots. He averaged 4.6 yards per carry with the Dolphins, who added him via a practice squad agreement during the season. With Raheem Mostert and Chase Edmonds now on the Mike McDaniel-led team, Johnson will head north.

Buffalo still rosters Devin Singletary and Zack Moss on their respective rookie contracts, but the team was clearly eyeing backs with aerial skillsets this offseason. Brandon Beane expressed frustration McKissic’s agreement fell through. McKissic is still with Washington. In the 28-year-old Johnson, the Bills have a player who has topped 400 receiving yards in five of his six seasons. With the Browns, Johnson exceeded 500 receiving yards three times.

Dolphins To Promote Duke Johnson

He clearly earned it. The Dolphins are set to promote running back Duke Johnson to the active roster (Twitter link via Adam Schefter of ESPN.com).

Johnson, 28, spent much of the year on the workout circuit. After auditions for the 49ers, Panthers, and Saints didn’t result in deals, he settled for a practice squad contract with the Dolphins in October. Yesterday, in his first start of 2021, Johnson torched the Jets for 107 rushing yards and two touchdowns off of 22 carries. The Dolphins — against some creative play calling from the Jets — won 31-24, advancing to 7-7 on the year.

Johnson was the focal point of the Dolphins’ offense, even though Myles Gaskin and Salvon Ahmed were cleared in time to play. Elevated in place of Phillip Lindsay, who was still held out due to COVID-19 protocols, the veteran kept the chains moving throughout the afternoon.

Historically, Johnson has been known for his pass-catching ability, as shown by his 400+ receiving yards in each of his first five seasons. But, on Sunday, he did most of the damage with his feet, save for a 20-yard grab in the third quarter. He might just be the bell cow moving forward as the Dolphins scrap for a playoff berth. The AFC East may be out of reach, but the ‘Fins still have a 10% chance at capturing a Wild Card spot, per Five Thirty Eight.

Minor NFL Transactions:  12/20/21

Today’s minor moves:

Arizona Cardinals

Baltimore Ravens

Buffalo Bills

  • Promoted: OL Jacob Capra

Chicago Bears

Cincinnati Bengals

Cleveland Browns

Dallas Cowboys

Kansas City Chiefs

Las Vegas Raiders

Los Angeles Chargers

Los Angeles Rams

Miami Dolphins

Minnesota Vikings

New York Giants

Washington Football Team

  • Promoted: OT Sam Cosmi

Dolphins Worked Out RB Lamar Miller

The Dolphins considered a reunion with one of their former players today. Per Aaron Wilson (on Twitter), the team worked out running back Lamar Miller today. The team also took a look at RBs Benny LeMay, Jordan Scarlett, and Dexter Williams, who ultimately signed with the Dolphins practice squad. Miami also promoted RB Duke Johnson to the active roster and released wideout Travis Fulgham from the practice squad.

Miller was a second-round pick by the Dolphins back in 2012, and he ended up spending the first four seasons of his career in Miami. Miller ultimately saw time in 61 games (48 starts) during his time with the Dolphins, including a career year in 2014 when he collected 1,374 yards from scrimmage and nine touchdowns. The 30-year-old has bounced around the NFL recently, including a stint on the Saints practice squad earlier this season.

Instead of adding Miller to their depth chart, the Dolphins decided to pivot to Williams. Williams was a sixth-round pick by the Packers back in 2019, and he ended up spending two seasons in Green Bay, collecting 19 yards from scrimmage in seven games. The 24-year-old has spent much of the 2021 campaign on the Giants and Browns practice squads.

Miami’s running backs depth chart is shaky heading into Week 15. Myles Gaskin, Phillip Lindsay, and Salvon Ahmed are all on the reserve/COVID-19 list, leading to Johnson’s promotion. Williams will join a taxi squad that already includes RB Gerrid Doaks. The team also has Patrick Laird and Malcolm Brown on the IR, and there’s a chance Brown could return before the end of the season.