Johnson's agent requested a trade a few weeks after the Browns signed Kareem Hunt (suspension), likely fearing the 25-year-old won't have a meaningful role in the second half of 2019 if both Hunt and Nick Chubb are available. General manager John Dorsey said last week that he still views Johnson as an important part of the offense, but Dorsey could easily change his mind if/when the backfield becomes crowded. A trade would allow both parties to avoid the awkward scenario, though Cleveland would be left with a $2.25 million dead-cap charge from the three-year extension Johnson signed last June. The contract theoretically should increase his trade value, as the new team would be inheriting three years and $11.55 million of the deal, with no guarantees beyond 2019, per OverTheCap.com
Rapoport also notes that there hasn't been an active trade market for Johnson since reports surfaced in early April that he demanded a trade from the team, but that presumably has more to do with a combination of Cleveland's trade demands and Johnson's sizable contract than any concerns over the running back's effectiveness. While it's possible some teams could up their offers after the draft shakes out -- or that the Browns lower their asking price if Johnson mounts a holdout come June -- it sounds like head coach Freddie Kitchens is fully counting on Johnson being available alongside Nick Chubb for Week 1 against the Titans. However, the team has offered practically zero insight on how the backfield could operate once Kareem Hunt (suspension) joins the mix for the second half of the season.
Entering the first season of a three-year, $15.6 million extension he signed last summer, Johnson has been worried about his future in Cleveland ever since Kareem Hunt (suspension) was signed in February. Hunt's eight-game suspension leaves room for both Johnson and Nick Chubb to handle significant roles early in the season, but Johnson could be the odd man out come November and December. The Texans, Jets and Eagles reportedly have shown interest in trading for the 25-year-old running back, though the latter two teams have already added productive veterans to their backfields this offseason. Johnson has played all 64 games in four NFL seasons, averaging 4.3 yards on 299 carries and 9.2 yards on 235 receptions. He finished 2018 with career-low marks for carries (40), catches (47) and targets (62), despite producing strong marks of 5.0 YPC and 9.1 YPR.
Johnson has been the subject of trade rumors ever since Cleveland signed Kareem Hunt, who will serve an eight-game suspension before he's eligible to play for his new team. Given the length of the suspension and the frequency of backfield injuries, the Browns may still have significant plans for Johnson in 2019, albeit with the possibility of a midseason trade if Nick Chubb stays healthy and Hunt is ready for the second half of the campaign. Entering the first season of a three-year, $15.6 million extension, Johnson may be frustrated with the decision to sign Hunt despite receiving some financial security last summer.
After the addition of Kareem Hunt on Feb. 11, questions have abounded about Johnson's status in a seemingly crowded backfield. Nick Chubb is the clear-cut No. 1 option, but the beleaguered Hunt provided a challenge to the rest of the pecking order. Since then, the NFL settled Hunt's situation, suspending him for the first eight games of the upcoming campaign. The decision paved the way for Johnson to hold onto his pass-catching gig, at least for a portion of the season. In one year of game plans created by Kitchens, Johnson hauled in 47 of his 62 targets for 429 yards and three touchdowns while tacking on 40 rushes for 201 yards. Assuming he kicks off 2019 with a similar share of the offensive snaps (42.1 percent) from a season ago, Johnson is in line for another modest (and potentially abbreviated) role.
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