After the Cleveland Browns traded for Jarvis Landry, there was speculation that the acquisition would turn into Duke Johnson either being shipped out of town or see his role reduced significantly. Those questions and assumptions seemed to be put to rest Monday, when NFL.com’s Michael Silver reported that the Browns and Johnson have been working on an extension.
Since some of you have asked: The Browns and RB Duke Johnson have been working toward a new deal. They absolutely want to keep him. Still somewhat apart on money. We'll keep watching. 👀
— Michael Silver (@MikeSilver) March 12, 2018
While the two may be apart on money,1 the fact that the team is trying to extend one of their top playmakers is a good sign, especially after they acquired Landry over the weekend.
Why does Landry’s acquisition mean anything in terms of Johnson, you ask? The wide out has been one of the best slot receivers in the NFL over the past few seasons and will all but certainly be the featured slot receiver in Cleveland. Although Johnson had been a running back during his first two years in Cleveland, he saw his role as the team’s slot receiver increase significantly in 2017. With Landry now in the fold, Johnson’s role out wide may not be as much, but given what he can do with the ball in his hands, new offensive coordinator Todd Haley will most likely find a way to give him the ball, whether it’s in the backfield or in the slot.
Last season, the third-year running back-turned-slot receiver led the Browns in receptions (74), receiving yards (693), along with scoring a team-high seven touchdowns (three receiving, four rushing). The 5-foot-9, 206-pounder also added 348 rushing yards on 82 carries as well. Johnson was one of the few bright spots in what was a dismal 0-16 season, a season that Cleveland would love to forget.
Keep in mind, this was all while playing behind Isaiah Crowell in the backfield and having a rookie quarterback in DeShone Kizer. Now without Crowell in the backfield2 and with a guy like Tyrod Taylor leading the offense, Johnson could have his best season yet. The kid’s only 24 years old and hasn’t even reached his prime yet.
While Johnson’s role in the offense is unknown given the fact that Landry will most likely be the full-time slot receiver, a team can never have too many playmakers. If it’s somehow a problem, it’s a good problem to have. Now it’s up to Haley to figure out how to utilize his top guys and get the best out of the talent that’s on the roster. With Josh Gordon, Landry, Johnson, Corey Coleman, David Njoku, and others in the fold, along with whoever the Browns add in the draft, Haley has plenty of playmakers that he can (hopefully) find the right ways to use this fall (and beyond).