The Cleveland Browns agreed to terms with D’Ernest Johnson, which makes their running back room very crowded. What’s the plan for the 2022 season?
Before free agency kicked off, the Cleveland Browns placed a tender on D’Ernest Johnson, who was a restricted free agent. While he didn’t sign the offer, Johnson remained focused on the upcoming season, even reporting to voluntary offseason training.
On Saturday, Johnson and the Browns agreed to a new contract, paying him up to $2.43 million this season.
With Johnson back under contract, the Browns have arguably the best running back corps in the NFL. They also have the most crowded.
Cleveland now has Nick Chubb, Kareem Hunt, Demetric Felton, and rookie Jerome Ford along with Johnson. As we saw last season, Johnson is a capable starter when relied upon. As for the rest, Chubb is one of the top backs in the game, and Hunt — who led the NFL in rushing in 2017 — could start for several teams in the league.
Ford also has a lot to offer and was a steal in Round 5. Ford started his collegiate career at Alabama before transferring to Cincinnati. By his final season, he was one of the best backs in the country, racking up 1,319 yards and 19 touchdowns.
Lastly, there’s Felton, a sixth-round pick from 2021. As a rookie, he had181 yards receiving with two touchdowns but just 24 yards on seven rushing attempts. There’s been this belief among fans that he could serve in a slot receiver role but the team has said Felton is focusing on running back — which makes sense considering they added Jaeem Grant and David Bell to the receiving corps.
Which Cleveland Browns running back will be the odd man out?
Clearly, the Browns aren’t entering the season with five running backs. In fact, they might only be willing to go with four if they’re fine without a fullback.
Right now, that could make Felton the odd man out. It’s a shame considering his versatility as both a runner and receiver — as well as his ability in the return game.
However, Ford has more upside in the run game and can produce as a receiver out of the backfield. On top of that, Jakeem Grant is a far superior return man, meaning that part of Felton’s game also might not save him.
Having said all that, there’s an outside chance the Browns could listen to trade offers for either Johnson or Hunt. Each player is on a one-year deal and there would be no cap hit to move on — but it would surely have to be a great offer to move on from either.
So yes, the Browns have a problem at running back with overcrowding. But let’s be honest, this is a great problem to have.