Duke Johnson’s tenure with the Cleveland Browns ended this week when the team granted the running back his trade request, sending him to the Houston Texans for a conditional draft pick.
Johnson had requested a trade in the offseason following Cleveland’s acquisition of former Pro Bowl back Kareem Hunt. He had spent his entire four-year career with the Browns.
The running back took to social media to say his final goodbyes to the city and team he came up with during his NFL career.
WARNING: Video features NSFW language.
Duke Johnson’s Career With Browns
Johnson joined the Browns as a third-round pick in 2015. He appeared in 64 games with 10 starts. He registered 1,286 rushing yards and 2,170 receiving yards on 235 receptions with 13 total touchdowns.
Last season, Johnson had 47 receptions for 429 yards and three touchdowns. He had just 40 carries for 201 yards on the ground. Both his number of carries and catches were career lows.
He signed a three-year extension last offseason worth $15.6 million. His contract value is the 13th highest among running backs, which put him just behind Panthers running back Christian McCaffery, according to Over the Cap.
While he was never truly the featured back in offense, Johnson hinted his trade request was linked to “loyalty.”
“I’m big on loyalty,” said Johnson said. “I’ve felt as I’ve been loyal to this organization through it all, and the moment that I no longer have loyalty — and that’s even in my personal life, friends, family, the moment the loyalty stops, it stops on both ends. It’s not a one-way street. It stops on my end.”
Despite his trade request, Johnson was a fan-favorite in Cleveland. He played through some tough times in the orange and brown, including an 0-16 campaign in 2017 that was historic for all the wrong reasons. But as they say, the NFL is a business and getting a deal done was the best for all sides involved.
Baker Mayfield, John Dorsey React to Johnson Trade
Johnson’s final few months with the Browns were turbulent, due mostly to some comments from quarterback Baker Mayfield at minicamp.
“If somebody wants to be here, they’ll be here,” Mayfield said. “You got guys within our locker room that are dying to get playing time, that are dying to be here. I get it, Duke has been here for years and I respect that but it is about what are you doing right now.”
Mayfield responded to the trade following the team’s preseason victory over the Redskins.
“That is obviously not my call,” Mayfield said. “We talked about it. They wanted people who wanted to be there, and Duke was there. Unfortunately, he got hurt and then the decision was made to trade him away. We have to have the next man up mentality so tonight you saw a lot of Dontrell Hilliard. We are going to be counting on guys that continue to step up and see who can fill the void because Duke was obviously a huge part of our offense last year.”
What the Browns got back for Johnson in a possible third-round pick was a solid return, considering that running backs historically haven’t fetched the most value. This led general manager John Dorsey feeling it was time to get the deal done with the Texans.
“I do want to wish Duke the best,” general manager John Dorsey said on News 5′s pregame show Thursday night, via Nate Ulrich of the Beacon Journal. “With regards to that, we sat; we waited; we were patient; and at the right time, there was a deal on the table that we probably should have taken.”
With Johnson gone, the Browns will be relying on second-year back Dontrell Hillard to take over the backup role for the first eight games of the season with Hunt banned for the first half of the season.
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