Cleveland Browns free agency preview: Ernest Johnson’s RB
D’Ernest Johnson is coming off the most productive of his three-year career with the Cleveland Browns. Due to injuries to Kareem Hunt and Nick Chubb, Johnson played the most attacking snaps of last season. While he may not have been quite on their level, he made the most of his opportunities, becoming an asset to the Browns and someone other teams might want.
100 carries, 534 yards, 3 touchdowns
25 targets, 19 receptions, 137 yards
Johnson wins as a runner with speed and will. His legs keep moving, he keeps fighting. Every time he touches the ball, he plays as if it would be his last. Largely a north-south runner, Johnson can miss opponents, but that’s by gaining ground. When there is room, he is quick enough to exploit it.
Johnson has the ability to be a good wide receiver on screens and out of the backfield, but he will sometimes speed up the process, take his eyes off the ball and drop it as a result.
Johnson can return kicks and punts and contribute elsewhere on special teams, although his offensive contributions have increased, his shots on specials have decreased. He has the longest punt return of the past two seasons for the Browns at 43 yards.
Free Agency Status: Restricted
The first decision for the Browns is what tender they would like to place on hm.
Because Johnson was an undrafted free agent, an original bidding would give the Browns the chance to match any contract a team might sign Johnson, but if they chose not to, they wouldn’t. would receive no project compensation. In other words, it makes no sense for the Browns.
There are two more options the Browns could use.
A second-round bidding would mean the team that signs Johnson would have to give up a second-round pick. This is unlikely to happen.
There is also a right of first refusal. All of this allows the team submitting the offer to match any offer another team might sign.
The first round of bidding with right of refusal is worth $2.433 million while the second round of bidding is $3.96 millionthe contract the Browns would pay Johnson for a one-year contract if no one chooses to sign him to a contract.
It’s also possible the Browns could swap Johnson’s offer with another team. For example, a team might give up a fifth-round pick for the right to sign Johnson.
Free agency screening
Unless the Browns have essentially pre-negotiated a deal for a trade to send Johnson the rights, the likeliest scenario is for the Browns to go first right of refusal on Johnson. They’ll give themselves the chance to match any contract a team might sign them, but paying a hair under $4 million for a third running back just isn’t realistic given the situation. of the Browns over the salary cap.
The Browns are expected to pay Chubb $5.21 million and Hunt $6.25 million for the 2022 season. Nearly $15.5 million for three backs is almost certainly a bridge too far, going against some of the safeguards that the front office has put in place.
The first right of refusal could see Johnson sign with another team. At this point, the Browns are giving him the ability to choose where he wants to play next season. They probably feel good about their deal with Johnson.
Bottom line, the Browns would likely prefer to trade Johnson’s rights to another team for an asset or player draft, but would happily bring him back for the lowest available offer for one more season.