This offseason has been one of the most exciting times for Browns fans since the revival of the franchise in 1999. After the terrible stench of 0-16 last year, the Browns have moved quickly to forget the pain that has consumed the team and fanbase. Many high profile moves have been made to improve the team for the present and the future. From the trade frenzy that brought Jarvis Landry, Tyrod Taylor, and Damarious Randall to the team to Baker Mayfield being picked as the future Browns QB, the Browns have been one of the most active teams this offseason.
But the smartest move this Browns offseason occurred last week and it was the re-signing of running back Duke Johnson. Johnson, who has been a member of the Browns since 2015, has been one of the most underrated receiving backs in the NFL. Now, he’s getting paid to the tune of $15.6 million dollars over three years and rightly so.
Johnson last year had a combined 1,041 running and receiving yards to go along with 7 touchdowns. This solid stat line is even more impressive when you consider that Johnson was only involved in 53% of the Browns’ plays. Also helping his case is that his stats shine brightly alongside the horrific offense that he had to work with. Being on a team that has been 3-44 since he came into the league and still not receiving a shot to shine should have irked Johnson. But his glimpses of greatness shows that when given the chance, the former Hurricane showed that he belonged on the field for the Browns.
Even with the new additions of former 49er Carlos Hyde and the Browns second-round pick Nick Chubb to the running back group; Johnson can find a way to make a major impact. Having shown that he can be a 21st century back who can run and catch will prove vital to Cleveland. Todd Haley, the new offensive coordinator for the Browns, has to make sure Johnson is living up to his contract. Being paid the highest amount amongst this talented group puts a target on the back of Johnson for the first time in his career. He simply cannot wait another year on the bench wasting his talent of which the Browns have sorely needed for years.
If this offseason has shown any signs; the Browns are going all in to achieve competitiveness in the NFL. The Browns have improved in every aspect on the offensive side of the ball and could have one of the best offenses in the league if they reach their full potential. One of the major cogs of the offense has to be Duke Johnson in order for this team to win games. Providing Haley knows how to use the running back, Johnson will have his fingers all over this offense and affect both the passing and running games of the Browns. With the right schemes to let Johnson make an impact, Haley would have his Le’Veon Bell 2.0. If that were to happen, the Browns offense could lead this team to an unexpected playoff run.