Cleveland Browns running back D’Ernest Johnson has a new agent after signing with Rosenhaus Sports Representation.
The news came out on Tuesday on Twitter straight from agent Drew Rosenhaus himself.
This would normally be the type of minor move that would appear in what the old-timers remember as the agate section of the daily sports page, but in Johnson’s case, it may have a bit more significance.
The Browns placed a right of first refusal tender on Johnson, who is a restricted free agent in March that would pay him $2.433 million for the 2022 season. The move allowed Johnson to explore free agency to see if he could find a better deal, which general manager Andrew Berry can choose to match. If another team offers Johnson a contract that is more than the Browns are willing to pay and he leaves, Cleveland will not receive a draft pick in compensation.
The interesting part in this is that Johnson is facing a deadline of April 22 to find a new offer; if that does not happen, then his negotiating rights revert exclusively back to the Browns. With the level of weight that Rosenhaus carries across the NFL, it is reasonable to think that Johnson is making one last push to see if he can get a better deal from another team.
Johnson proved to be a valuable insurance policy for the Browns in 2021 as running back Nick Chubb missed three games with an injury and running back Kareem Hunt missed nine. That provided Johnson the opportunity to take over as the lead back in three games, and he responded with:
- 146 rushing yards and a touchdown against the Denver Broncos in Week 7
- 99 rushing yards against the New England Patriots in Week 10
- 123 rushing yards and a touchdown against the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 18
If Johnson returns to the Browns it will be interesting to see Berry decides to roll it back this season with all three running backs.
Chubb is obviously locked in as the undisputed No. 1 back, but Hunt is entering the final year of his contract that carries a cap hit of $6.25 million but no dead cap money, according to spotrac.com. If Berry decides that three running backs are a luxury, then he could look to move Hunt if the price is right.
The downside of moving on from Hunt is that he brings a needed spark to the offense - especially in the passing game - that the Browns were missing when he was out of the lineup last year.
In three seasons with the Browns, Johnson has rushed for 721 yards, three touchdowns and averaged 5.3 yards per carry, while adding 28 receptions for 222 yards.