Training camp is right around the corner and disgruntled Cleveland Browns running back Duke Johnson Jr. is still on the roster.
The question now as the team progresses this preseason is whether or not the Johnson will be wearing orange and brown when the season kicks off.
An answer to that question might be in the works, as Johnson and his agent Drew Rosenhaus met with the Browns on Tuesday to discuss the running back’s future in Cleveland.
Johnson, who has spent his entire four-year NFL career with the Browns, asked for a ticket out of town after the Browns announced they were bringing on free agent and 2017 NFL rushing leader Kareem Hunt, who was released by the Kansas City Chiefs following disturbing video of him kicking and shoving a woman in a hotel was made public. Johnson has said his request was not linked to the team signing Hunt, although the timing is pretty coincidental.
Johnson signed a lucrative three-year, $15.6 million extension last offseason. His contract value is the 13th highest among running backs, according to Spotrac, just behind Panthers running back Christian McCaffery.
“I only want to be somewhere I’m wanted,’’ Johnson said at minicamp. “At the end of the day, that’s all this is about, being somewhere you’re wanted. In my case, the moment I’m not wanted anymore, I think it’s best that we find a middle ground and we do what’s best for the team. If you don’t want me here, there’s no need to keep me or force me to be here if you don’t want me here.’’
Johnson had 47 receptions for 429 yards and three touchdowns last season. While he does most of his damage in the passing game, Johnson added 40 carries for 201 yards on the ground. His number of carries and catches were career lows.
Team Reaction to Duke Johnson’s Trade Request
Both general manager John Dorsey and head coach Freddie Kitchens have maintained that Johnson will have a role on the Browns.
“Duke’s under contract,’’ Kitchens said. “He’s on our football team. He’s a professional. He knows how to handle things. Whatever emotional side of the game it is, he knows how to check that at the door and do his job and do his job well. That’s what we expect out of Duke, and that’s what Duke will give us.”
The request also caused a bit of drama at Browns minicamp, when quarterback Baker Mayfield chimed in with his thoughts.
“I wouldn’t say I’m not happy about it,’’ Mayfield told reporters. “It’s just the way he’s handled it. It can be a stir-up in the media, it can be however it wants, but if somebody wants to be here, they’ll be here in that situation. You’ve got guys within our locker room that are dying to get playing time, that are dying to be here.’’
Browns Timeline for a Duke Johnson Trade
Many have suggested that the team will keep Johnson for the first eight games while Hunt serves his suspension and then follow through on his request. While that makes sense, it would be more beneficial for the team to find a solution sooner rather than later, allowing the new acquisition to run through the playbook and maybe even a few preseason games.
Tampa Bay has been at the forefront of discussions when it comes to a potential trade partner for the Browns.
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