About four months after running back Duke Johnson went public with his desire to be traded, the Browns granted his request.
Cleveland announced on Thursday, hours before their first preseason game, that they were sending the disgruntled running back to the Texans for a 2020 draft pick. According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, that pick is currently worth a fourth-round value but can become a third rounder. That stipulation is dependent on Johnson being active for 10 games this season according to John McClain of The Houston Chronicle.
If Duke Johnson is active for 10 games, Texans will give Browns a third-round pick.
— John McClain (@McClain_on_NFL) August 8, 2019
For the Texans, who recently parted with 2017 draftee D’Onta Foreman siting his need for a fresh start elsewhere, the move makes a ton of sense. With Johnson, Houston gets a proven replacement for Foreman to form a new running back tandem of Lamar Miller and Johnson.
For the Browns, the move is a bit surprising given that general manager John Dorsey has remained stedfast in his desire to retain the dual-threat back, who is under contract through the 2021 season.
Head coach Freddie Kitchens has preached much of the same through the first few weeks of training camp, even saying that Johnson would be an important part of their offensive gameplan. With Kareem Hunt slated to serve an eight-game suspension the lack of urgency by Dorsey and Kitchens to trade the 25-year-old was even more warranted.
The other factor at play was Dorsey’s unwillingness to come off of the asking price for Johnson. A value that the Texans – desperate to add to their running back room – were apparently ready to meet.
Nowadays it’s rare to see a running back, particularly a backup, traded for anything higher than a mid to late-round pick. Some recent examples include the Seahawks sending a recently retired Marshawn Lynch to the Raiders for fifth and sixth-round selections and in 2017 the Dolphins sent Jay Ajayi to the Eagles for a fourth-round pick.
In fact, should the compensation for Johnson turn into a third rounder for Cleveland, it would be the highest pick value traded for a running back since the Browns sent Trent Richardson to the Colts for a first in 2013.
Additionally, the fact that the Dorsey pulled the trigger on this move so early in the preseason speaks to how much the Browns must trust that Hunt has changed and their belied that he will keep himself out of trouble over the next three months before he can officially suit up for the team in meaningful games.
With that, the very public Johnson trade ordeal, which included Baker Mayfield calling the 2015 third-round pick out for demanding a trade and Johnson hiring super-agent Drew Rosenhaus, comes to an end for the Browns.
In four seasons in Cleveland, Johnson amassed 3,456 total yards from scrimmage, the majority of which came as a pass-catcher. Eight of his 13 total touchdowns came through the air as well.