After reports of a contract extension being worked on nearly two months ago, there has been silence surrounding the Cleveland Browns running back.
The Cleveland Browns have built a strong backfield this offseason, adding Carlos Hyde and Nick Chubb to the running back room. They will also be joining dynamic running back Duke Johnson, who is in the final year of his rookie contract.
On March 12th, NFL Network’s Mike Silver reported that the Browns were working on a contract extension with Johnson. But ever since then, there have been no reports regarding Johnson’s contract.
For a running back like Johnson, it will be hard for both sides of the contract negotiations to settle on the perfect value in a contract. Even though he plays running back, the Browns use him more as a receiver.
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Johnson will likely want to be paid for what he brings as a runner and a receiver. It could put the money he wants in a contract extension higher than what the Browns want to pay him.
Johnson is a solid runner, as he has averaged 4.2 yards per carry in his career. But he only has 259 rushing attempts in his three-year career, and has not reached 100 rushing attempts since his rookie season.
Johnson’s usage mainly comes as a receiver and a third-down running back. Over the past two seasons, he has more passing targets than rushing attempts. In 2017, Johnson led the team in receptions and receiving yards, and was second in receiving touchdowns.
To add another wrinkle into the contract negotiations, Johnson may not get the same amount of touches in 2018. The Browns have made significant additions to the roster this offseason, and it culd diminish Johnson’s role.
With Hyde and Chubb in the backfield, Johnson will not get many opportunities running the ball. He may only be used on third-down and other passing situations.
But with the addition of Jarvis Landry and his ability in the slot, Johnson will not get as much time being split out in the slot. So most of his targets will come from out of the backfield.
So if Johnson loses touches in 2018, even though he shouldn’t, his value will decrease. That will make it even harder for the sides to agree on the money.
Johnson is a dynamic player that the Browns offense has lacked for many years. But after the initial reports of a contract extension, the silence surrounding him is odd. The addition of Chubb makes his situation with Cleveland appear even murkier.