The Cleveland Browns returned for mandatory minicamp and star backup running back Duke Johnson is pushing for a trade. Again.
The offseason has been different for the former Miami running back, only one year after signing a three-year extension. With a new coaching staff in the Dawg Pound, along with some strong competition from Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt, Johnson’s role is no longer clear and no longer with the starters.
Earlier this offseason, it was reported he was on the trading block and he demanded a trade. Obviously, the team found no takers. In fact, Vaughn McClure of ESPN called Johnson “a longshot but an intriguing option to replace Tevin Coleman” back in March. And he’s not happy about it.
It is day one of practice and he has already expressed his desire for a new team, per Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com.
Football analysts have already put out a number of interesting landing spots for Johnson, and that includes the Falcons.
I'd add Falcons, Packers, Texans, Chiefs, perhaps the Dolphins as interesting possibilities. I hope it happens. He deserves a 1A gig. https://t.co/sR0QymL88L— Mike Clay (@MikeClayNFL) June 4, 2019
Why does Atlanta make sense? First, while Devonta Freeman is finally healthy, there are no proven options behind him in case of another injury. There was promising but underperforming Ito Smith, recent draft pick Qadree Ollison, Brian Hill, and special teamer Kenjon Barner. Marcus Green, Atlanta’s 6th-round selection, was called a running back but later clarified he expects to play wide receiver.
Johnson would be fantastic Freeman insurance, and is an absolutely phenomenal pass-catching back. He costs a very reasonable $6.4 million over the next two years and the team now has cap relief with their post-June 1st cuts.
The biggest problems? The Falcons would almost certainly need to keep four running backs on the roster. That isn’t uncommon for Dan Quinn but requires them to trim a player somewhere. It also requires the team to cough up a draft pick or a player and it is not clear they have any intention of doing that. Maybe if Johnson is a big enough headache, that compensation drops to a more reasonable amount. Lastly, the biggest roster hole remains at defensive end. If the team is going to get aggressive, they could look at finally adding a pass rusher.