Bills Release Veteran RB After Strong Preseason Performance

Duke Johnson

Getty Duke Johnson runs the ball in a Buffalo Bills preseason game.

Despite a strong preseason where he showed off his versatility to the Buffalo Bills, veteran Duke Johnson could not find a place in the team’s increasingly crowded running back room.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported early on cutdown day that the Bills had decided to release Johnson, the 28-year-old former Houston Texans and Miami Dolphins back. Johnson had to compete with one resurgent Bills running back and another surprising rookie, and ended up as the odd man out.

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Johnson Had Strong Preseason

Johnson showcased his versatility with the Bills this preseason. Through three preseason games, he had 21 carries for 84 yards with two touchdowns while also returning punts and kickoffs and even playing on the team’s kickoff coverage unit.

But Johnson had some tough competition. After a sophomore campaign where he was hampered by injury, Zack Moss had a resurgent preseason where he rushed seven times for 56 yards and two touchdowns. Undrafted rookie free agent Raheem Blackshear was also a surprise standout, taking 24 carries for 116 yards with two rushing touchdowns along with eight catches for 93 yards in three preseason games.

There are reports that the Bills could be looking to clear the way for Blackshear to make the final roster. Pro Football Network’s Mike Kaye reported that the Bills are exploring trade options for Moss and could have a partner in the NFC.

“Moss could be of interest to the Eagles, who need a north-to-south rotational back,” Kaye reported. “Moss also makes sense for a team like the Minnesota Vikings if they move Alexander Mattison, who is in the final year of his rookie deal. Moss has two years left on his contract.”

Bills Hope to Get Johnson Back

As Schefter reported, the Bills still hope to keep Johnson around if possible.

“Bills do have an interest in bringing him back on their practice squad if he doesn’t sign with another team’s active roster,” Schefter reported.

Though that could be more difficult after his strong showing in the preseason, Johnson was not the most in-demand running back this offseason and is coming off an average season with the Dolphins. In 2021, he had 71 attempts for 330 yards with three rushing touchdowns and four receptions for 41 yards in five games.

If he doesn’t get interest from another team, Johnson could have value to the Bills as a mentor to some of their younger players. Earlier this offseason, he talked about working with rookie James Cook despite competing with him for a spot on the roster.

“You look at it as competition, but we also look at it – the older guys – as being able to mentor,” Johnson told the Buffalo News. “We get it. We know it’s a numbers game. We all know that, but it doesn’t stop us from helping each other out, because at the end of the day, we want this team to be successful, because this team gave all of us an opportunity to play football and we want to make sure that whoever they do choose is the right guy.”

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