Duke Johnson Trade Grades: Who Came out on Top

Getty Cleveland Browns head coach Freddie Kitchens.

The Cleveland Browns granted disgruntled running back Duke Johnson Jr. his wish on Thursday, shipping him to the Houston Texans for a draft pick.

Johnson had requested a trade in the offseason following the Cleveland’s acquisition of former Pro Bowl back Kareem Hunt. He had spent his entire four-year career with the Browns.

The Texans gave up a 2020 fourth round pick for Johnson, which could turn into a third if he plays more than 10 games.

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.

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.

That being said, here are the trade grades for the Texans and Browns.

Cleveland Browns: B+

GettyGeneral Manager John Dorsey of the Cleveland Browns

Both head coach Freddie Kitchens and general manager John Dorsey had vehemently defended that Johnson was going to be a member of the Cleveland Browns this season. However, the Houston’s price was right, leading to the trade.

It was the right move and probably overdue, considering some of the drama that has stemmed from the request.

A fourth-round pick would have been great, but the bonus for the Browns is that it’s likely to turn into a third round pick, as Johnson has not missed a game in his four-year career. He’s been dealing with what was being called a “nagging” hamstring at training camp, but we’ll see if the move to Texas helps with the healing process.

That’s huge for a guy who was a third down back — albeit a pretty good one.

It was the highest return for a running back since 2013, when the Browns fleeced the Colts for a first-round pick in exchange for Trent Richardson.

  • 2019: Eagles trade a sixth-round pick for Chicago’s Jordan Howard
  • 2018: Browns get a fifth-round pick from Jacksonville in return for Carlos Hyde
  • 2017: Oakland gets Marshawn Lynch from Seattle for a sixth-round pick
  • 2016: Tennessee trades a sixth-round pick for Eagles back DeMarco Murray
  • 2015: Bills acquire LeSean McCoy for linebacker Kiko Alonso
  • 2014: Eagles trade for Saints’ RB Darren Sproles in exchange for a fifth-round pick
  • 2013: Browns send Trent Richardson to Colts for first-round pick

The only reason this trade is not in the “A” territory is because the Browns don’t have a strong option as a backup to Nick Chubb for the first half of the season. Second-year back Dontrell Hilliard is expected to assume the role until Kareem Hunt returns from an eight-game ban.

Hilliard was picked up by the Browns as an undrafted free agent last offseason out of Tulane and spent the first month of the season on the practice squad. After being elevated to the active roster, he appeared in 11 game but did not receive a carry. However, he did catch nine balls for 105 yards and could be in the mix to return kicks.

Houston Texans: C-

Texans Head coach Bill O’Brien

As stated above, the Texans gave up quite a bit for a guy that will backup Lamar Miller. However, the team needed a reliable option after waiving running back D’Onta Foreman earlier in the week. Head coach Bill O’Brien called the battle for the backup spot “wide open.”

Johnson can be a fit, with his pass-catching ability out of the backfield being a major boon.

The Texans are in a curious situation of having no general manager in place for the season. Rapoport said it was O’Brien that negotiated the deal.

There’s also the fact that Johnson carries a fairly hefty price tag. The running back signed a lucrative three-year, $15.6 million extension last offseason.

His contract value is the 13th highest among running backs, according to Over the Cap, just behind Panthers running back Christian McCaffery.

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