The Houston Texans are continuing with their roster purge. On Friday, the team released running back Duke Johnson, whom they acquired from the Cleveland Browns prior to the 2019 season in exchange for a third-round draft pick.
Former head coach and de facto general manager Bill O'Brien made that deal for Johnson following an injury to incumbent starter Lamar Miller, but eventually decided to hand the starting reins to late-August trade acquisition Carlos Hyde. Johnson was thus relegated to a similarly-sized backup role to the one he played in Cleveland, and he was again effective on a per-touch basis and at creating missed tackles and big plays in the passing game.
The Texans then let Hyde leave in free agency, only to acquire David Johnson in the disastrous DeAndre Hopkins trade. David Johnson was the lead back ahead of Duke for most of the 2020 season, though Duke did fill in during the games that David missed due to injuries. The 2020 campaign was Duke's least effective as a pro, with his yards per touch average dropping from 6.5 during the first five years of his career to just 4.6 last season.
Speaking of David, however, Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle reports that the Texans would like to retain him for next season. He is under contract through 2021, but Wilson notes that the team would like to bring down his $8.512 million cap hit. If Houston were to release David in a similar fashion to Duke, they'd clear around $6.7 million off the cap.
Meanwhile, Duke's release saves the Texans around $5 million on the salary cap in 2021, and sends him into the free-agent market at 27 years old. Still a strong pass-catcher and elusive in the open field, Johnson should draw interest from teams in need of a versatile player who can contribute in the passing game. Among others, the Steelers, Titans, Raiders, Buccaneers, and Seahawks seem like potential fits.