After already looking at RB Kareem Hunt set to be a free agent, the Browns have another one of their backups set to hit the open market: RB D’Ernest Johnson.
How and When He Joined the Browns: Johnson was playing for the Orlando Apollos of the AAF in 2019, but shortly after the league folded, the Browns signed him in May 2019 as a free agent. Johnson had a good camp and won a spot on the regular season roster.
Productivity Level Last Season: Johnson was an afterthought in 2022, only running the ball 4 times for 17 yards (4.2 YPC) to go along with 3 catches for 7 yards. He didn’t have a single touch in a game from Week 11 onward.
Why Keeping Him Could Make Sense: Johnson had a great 2021 season, seeing significant reps when both Nick Chubb and Hunt were out with injuries. Johnson finished that season with 100 carries for 534 yards (5.3 YPC) and 3 touchdowns. He also had 19 catches for 137 yards. Even though he’s 27 years old, he is still as fresh as you can get for a running back, having not had much of a workload, and I’d feel comfortable with him being featured again if Chubb were injured.
What the Browns Should Do: Cleveland tendered Johnson as a restricted free agent in 2022 for $2.443 million, but something I didn’t realize until now was that they restructured his deal last June so that he only had a cap hit of $1.22 million. If the team was willing to penny pinch or cut him last year, and he didn’t get any opportunities to play here, I think he’ll be ready to try to find a home elsewhere. As mentioned in my review on Hunt, the Browns reportedly like the thought of what Jerome Ford can do as their backup. With that said, I’d be perfectly fine if Johnson was brought back on a 1-year, $1.3 million deal.
Let us know below whether or not the team should try to re-sign RB D’Ernest Johnson.
Should the Browns re-sign RB D’Ernest Johnson?
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