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Browns agree to contract extension with Duke Johnson

CLEVELAND – The Cleveland Browns made sweeping changes to their offense this offseason, adding names like quarterback Tyrod Taylor, wide receiver Jarvis Landry and running back Carlos Hyde. Now, they’re turning their attention towards keeping a familiar face on offense.

The Browns have officially finalized a contract extension with versatile RB Duke Johnson. The deal will reportedly add three years to Johnson’s current contract and pay him $15.6 million, $7.74 million of which is guaranteed. Part of that guaranteed money is a $5 million signing bonus. The $5.2 million average annual value is eighth highest among Johnson’s fellow NFL running backs. Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network was the first to report that a deal was done after coworker Mike Garafolo first shared that deal was close.

Throughout the offseason the Browns and general manager John Dorsey made it known that extending the 24-year-old back one of their top priorities. It finally came to fruition on Thursday.

“Duke Johnson is a good football player,” Dorsey said in a statement from the team. “His hard work and commitment to the Browns organization is appreciated and we are excited to extend his contract and keep him in a Browns uniform for years to come. Duke is an excellent representative our organization. He leads by example and we look forward to him playing an important role with the Cleveland Browns moving forward.”

When OTA’s got underway back on May 23, Johnson said he felt optimistic a deal would get done. Two weeks later it did. Despite all the losing he’s endured and the roster turnover he’s witnessed, Johnson is optimistic about the future of the organization.

“I’m excited. It’s fun to see how this team is shaping out and I want to be a part of it,” he said. “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.”

Johnson is entering his fourth-year in the NFL after being drafted by Cleveland in the third round of the 2015 draft. It was originally going to be the final year of his rookie deal before the extension was made.

The Browns clearly wanted to avoid potentially losing the Miami product as an unrestricted free agent next winter and it’s easy to see why. In three seasons in Cleveland, Johnson has developed a unique role as a pass-catching back. In today’s NFL, having a dynamic playmaker like that can be extremely valuable for an offense, particularly on third down, where Johnson, in particular, has thrived. Johnson can be us, both out of the backfield or in the slot as a receiver. With the additions of Hyde and second-round pick Nick Chubb, Johnson could play out of the slot even more than he has in years past.

This past season was Johnson’s most productive as he eclipsed 1,000 yards from scrimmage for the first time. His largest portion of yards came through the air as he racked up 693 receiving yards on 74 receptions, both of which were team bests and career highs. He also posted career highs in rushing touchdowns (4), and receiving touchdowns (3). Additionally, Johnson has proven to be extremely durable throughout his first three years in the NFL, appearing in all 48 games the Browns have played.

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