The Cleveland Browns finally traded running back Duke Johnson, but it may not have happened had Dontrell Hilliard not been so impressive in training camp
Before training camp began, the Cleveland Browns took the stance that they were not going to trade running back Duke Johnson despite his request to be moved.
Johnson even hired super agent Drew Rosenhaus in his attempt to get the Browns to trade him, but they remained steadfast in their claim that they had plans for him in 2019.
Then on Thursday morning, the Browns announced they had sent Duke to the Houston Texans in exchange for a conditional fourth-round pick — which has a good shot at becoming a third-round selection. According to John McClain of the Houston Chronicle, Johnson just needs to be active for 10 games in order for the pick to move up one round.
This is a win for both sides as Houston desperately needed a quarterback, but Cleveland got the better deal when you consider Jordan Howard went to the Philadelphia Eagles for a mere sixth-round pick. Even with the compensation being what it is, general manager John Dorsey isn’t making this move if not for Dontrell Hilliard’s play as of late.
On paper, Cleveland is stacked at running back with Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt on the same team. However, Hunt is suspended for the first eight games meaning the Browns were planning on having Duke play the role of the primary backup for the first eight games of the season.
It wasn’t fair to Johnson to keep him around for just those eight games, but that’s the business of the NFL. Also part of the business was how he handled things which included sitting out of OTAs and not trying to push it when his hamstring tightened up.
Not participating in practice afforded Hilliard the opportunity to showcase his skills. Practice after practice, he stepped up as he was getting it done as a runner and receiver in Duke’s absence.
This made Cleveland comfortable enough to lean on Hilliard as the No. 2 guy while Hunt is suspended. Johnson did what he needed to do by sitting out and Hilliard finished the job for him by proving he can handle the role that was set to be vacated.
In the end, everyone gets what they wanted and there are no losers here. Good luck to Duke in Houston and let’s see what Hilliard can do now.