Browns reportedly pay Duke Johnson like top-10 running back with three-year extension

After adding Carlos Hyde and Nick Chubb this offseason, the Browns' backfield is especially crowded. But that won't impact Duke Johnson's future in Cleveland. 

On Thursday, the Browns signed Johnson to a three-year extension. According to NFL Network's Mike Garafolo and Ian Rapoport, the deal is worth $15.6 million and comes with a $5 million signing bonus

Before landing a new deal, Johnson was scheduled to become a free agent after the coming season. Now, he's getting paid like a top-10 running back and is a part of the team's long-term vision.

The question now becomes, what will Johnson's role be like in the years to come? 

To this point, through the first three years of his career, Johnson's been a versatile playmaker who's capable of carrying the ball and serving as a dependable pass catcher, but he simply hasn't gotten the ball enough. Over the past three seasons, he's appeared in all 48 possible games. In those 48 games, he's carried the ball 259 times for 1,085 yards (4.2 yards per carry) and five touchdowns, and he's caught 188 passes for 1,741 yards (9.3 yards per catch) and five touchdowns. So, he's averaging 9.3 touches and 58.9 yards from scrimmage per game. Among running backs with 20-99 carries last season, Johnson ranked second by Football Outsiders' metrics. And as a pass catcher, he ranked seventh among 62 qualified running backs.

Most frequently, Johnson was splitting time with Isaiah Crowell, but Crowell left for the Jets this offseason. Now, Johnson will be competing for touches with free-agent addition Carlos Hyde and second-round pick Nick Chubb. The key for the Browns is to find a way to use Johnson as a pass catcher, because that's his biggest strength. If they can't find a way to utilize that strength of his, they'll be wasting the money they gave him on Thursday.

Suddenly, though, with Johnson, Hyde, and Chubb to go along with receivers Josh Gordon, Jarvis Landry, and Corey Coleman, and tight end David Njoku, the Browns' offense appears to have the necessary personnel to be a threat in the years to come. Of course, their future success will come down to the quarterback position, which is occupied by bridge starter Tyrod Taylor and future starter Baker Mayfield. The good news is that both of those guys will have the necessary weapons to succeed -- with Johnson being one of those weapons (if used properly).

"I'm excited. It's fun to see how this team is shaping out and I want to be a part of it," Johnson said in a statement. "You can see it with the guys they brought in on offense like Tyrod (Taylor) and (Jarvis) Landry plus the guys we already had. I think bringing in coach (Todd) Haley adds another dimension to our offense and it gives coach (Hue) Jackson the chance to be the head coach. John Dorsey has been bringing in guys that can play, that can ball, and that gives us a chance. Now it's about going out and doing it now."

CBS Sports Writer

Sean Wagner-McGough joined CBS Sports in 2015 after graduating from UC Berkeley. A native of Seattle, Sean now resides in the Bay Area. He spends his spare time defending Jay Cutler on Twitter. Full Bio

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