Since the Cleveland Browns signed running back Kareem Hunt last week, the talk has been about the future of running back Duke Johnson.
Many have talked about Johnson’s future with the team when they don’t even know the future of Hunt as he awaits his punishment from the NFL for his February 2018 incident when he struck a female multiple times in a Cleveland hotel.
Hunt is expected to be suspended at least eight games with some saying he could be suspended up to twelve games because of the other incidents he’s been linked to.
So why would Cleveland move on from Johnson when he could and should be a vital part of the offense in 2019?
Johnson, the 25-year-old fourth year running back that the Browns drafted in the third round of the 2015 NFL Draft has been one of the underrated all-around backs in the NFL during the last four seasons.
He’s averaged 4.3 yards per carry as a backup including a career best 5 yards per carry in 2018 despite only carrying the ball 40 times.
Johnson has been utilized best as a receiver during his career with at least 47 catches in each season including a career high 74 catches in the 2017 season.
His production took a dip in 2018 from 156 touches to 87 touches with the emergence of Nick Chubb as a rookie who rushed for nearly 1,000 yards. Chubb should be expected as the lead, three-down back for the immediate future.
If Hunt returns, many would expect Johnson to fall out of the rotation but I wouldn’t do that if I was head coach Freddie Kitchens and offensive coordinator Todd Monken.
Johnson should transition to wide receiver in that scenario because I think it would help not only himself but it would add another weapon for Baker Mayfield in the passing game.
I personally think he should transition to the wide receiver position permanently despite his slight 5’9, 210 lb. frame and how it seems like he gets hurt every other play but is tough enough to push through that.
You add Johnson to a mix of Jarvis Landry, Rashard Higgins, Antonio Callaway, hopefully a return of Breshad Perriman along with Damion Ratley and a healthy Derrick Willies, the Browns wide receiver room doesn’t look as poor as many want to portray.
The fact people are discussing trading Johnson is ridiculous. Depth isn’t a bad thing to have on a football team and that’s what the Browns should be looking to add this offseason as they’ve laid down the foundation and the core of this football team for the next five years.
Don’t remove the talent that’s on the team, continue to build around it.