5 best Cleveland Browns cap moves of the 2022 offseason
1. Re-signing D’Ernest Johnson
Cleveland re-signed D’Ernest Johnson to a new contract with some guarantees in it after he reverted back to them at the end of free agency. This is a much more fair contract to the player and ensures that he’s not going to get cut at the end of summer camp. It might, however, mean that he could get traded.
Johnson was a Restricted Free Agent this off-season, a confusing process for both fans, sportswriters, and even the players and agents.
The way it works is as follows — at the lowest level, the Browns make a qualifying offer referred to as a “tender” at $2.43 million dollars, none of which is guaranteed.
At the beginning of the NFL year, the player and his agent have a finite number of days during which they can negotiate with other teams. If they get another offer, the Browns can match the offer, or allow the player to leave if they feel the price is too high.
If there are no offers, the player still has the non-guaranteed $2.43 million dollar offer. But the Browns are allowed to just waive him at the end of training camp if they want, so the $2.43 million figure does not mean very much. It could go to zero at any time.
That is what happened to KhaDarel Hodge the previous year. He and his agent did not come up with any offers of any size, which means they were completely worthless. Hodge wound up signing with Detroit for close to the NFL minimum.
Midway through the RFA process, Johnson fired his agent and hired Drew Rosenhaus, which was probably a good move. What Rosenhaus wound up negotiating was a much lower base, close to the NFL base, but with $880,000 guaranteed. That means that in case of injury, Johnson is still getting paid.
Also, everyone now knows that Cleveland isn’t going to cut him and lose their investment. Further, there are a series of bonuses that Johnson can earn that would bring him back to around $2.4 million, so we are told (they aren’t published on either the Over The Cap or Spotrac sites).
There’s no reason for the Browns to trade a running back just because they have Nick Chubb, Kareem Hunt, Johnson, Jerome Ford, and Demetric Felton — though I think Felton will wind up becoming a slot receiver. However, if some team was offering a defensive tackle who was as good as, say, Sheldon Richardson and wanted a running back, Andrew Berry would likely listen to a proposal.
Had the Browns and Johnson not signed a new deal, teams would not be willing to trade, because they might hope Johnson could be available on the waiver wire at the end of summer camp, so why trade anything for him?
As things stand, it is a false narrative that Cleveland has to trade one of the running backs, but they could if they get something really good in return. You could say they are in a good position to make a trade if they want to, but they do not have to make a trade.