Cory's Corner: Duke Johnson Is Perfect Insurance

The Browns running back depth chart got quite full on Feb. 11 when they signed Kareem Hunt. 

Now, it may soon get a little bit lighter now that Duke Johnson has requested a trade out of Cleveland. 

And the perfect landing spot? You guessed it, Green Bay. I really like Aaron Jones as the featured back, but relying on a 5-foot-9, 208-pound back is always a risky proposition. 

Johnson will be entering his fifth season but he is the personification of versatility. The 5-foot-9, 210-pound back has averaged 321 rushing yards a season to go along with 58 receptions a year — including 74 in 2017.

What’s even better is that it won’t cost a lot to get him — I’m thinking one of the Packers fourth rounders. That’s a small price to pay to add more depth to a position that has been starving for it.

And remember what I said about versatility? He played two snaps at quarterback and 60 from the slot. He does very well in pass protection, which usually earns running backs automatic snaps in Green Bay, and has only had seven fumbles in four seasons with just one last year. 

Johnson, 25, churned out 165 yards after contact and tallied a total of 20 missed tackles as a running back and receiver last year. And let’s not forget that Johnson had 50 runs of 10 yards or more in his final season with the University of Miami. The Hurricanes also loved his receiving skills with an 11-yard receiving average in 2014. 

The moment you think that the Packers are set at running back is the moment that Jones misses time with injury. Remember, his rookie season was marred with MCL sprains in both knees, he had a hamstring injury that forced him to miss most of training camp last season before suffering a sprained MCL in December which ultimately ended his season. 

Paying for insurance is never fun, but it’s something that you always need. And Johnson isn’t just any warm body. The Browns used a third rounder on him but because of circumstance, he won’t be seeing much of the field anytime soon. 

This would be a perfect time for Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst to pounce — because the Eagles are already interested

 

-------------------

Cory Jennerjohn is a graduate from UW-Oshkosh and has been in sports media for over 15 years. He was a co-host on "Clubhouse Live" and has also done various radio and TV work as well. He has written for newspapers, magazines and websites. He currently is a columnist for CHTV and also does various podcasts. He recently earned his Masters degree from the University of Iowa. He can be found on Twitter: @Coryjennerjohn

NFL Categories: 
2 points

Comments (65)

Fan-Friendly This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.
dobber's picture

April 02, 2019 at 06:36 am

Quick to the edge, good pass-catcher, good in space. Coming out of college, he was touted as one of the best zone runners in his draft year. Has been healthy and available. Someone LIKE him is pretty much what the doctor ordered with regard to what the Packers are talking about with pressing the edges in the zone run game.

The question is: can you get someone like him through the draft for less than what it would take to get him? He's no longer on a rookie deal and they'd have to pony up a pick/player. Personally, I like him and what he brings, but he's a meaningful chunk of what they have left in flexible cap space.

spotrac.com/nfl/cleveland-browns/duke-johnson-16801/

+ REPLY
11 points
12
1
Coldworld's picture

April 02, 2019 at 06:59 am

I agree and I think there will be some lower level FA needs post draft depending on how that shakes out. One example is at safety where we need potential but also an immediate second option in coverage. RB might be another, we won’t know till the dust settles.

As a second point, Williams has looked effective in the passing game when given the chance. One of the things I will be looking for is to see us try to develop that in both Williams and Jones.

lastly, I believe we still have Kapri Bibbs on the roster. He is an all round RB type. It could be that the team believes that he can fill that role.

+ REPLY
4 points
5
1
PeteK's picture

April 02, 2019 at 08:27 am

We can't rely on Bibbs, he's been on three teams and has hardly seen the field.

+ REPLY
1 points
2
1
dobber's picture

April 02, 2019 at 08:43 am

I'm not a believer in Bibbs, myself, but it wouldn't be the first time someone bounced around and found the right system, the right coach, and the right situation to unexpectedly become productive.

+ REPLY
0 points
1
1
TheVOR's picture

April 02, 2019 at 12:18 pm

Like CJ Anderson did last year in LA? I get what you're saying, and I know a lot about both CJ and Bibbs, they were both Broncos. To be honest, of the 2, I liked the upside on CJ Anderson more, who is not a Detroit Lion..

+ REPLY
0 points
0
0
packerbackerjim's picture

April 02, 2019 at 07:32 am

Travis Homer out of Miami will likely be available in the 5th or 6th round. Not big, but extremely tough runner and excellent receiver. Good in pass pro too.

+ REPLY
-1 points
1
2
Guam's picture

April 02, 2019 at 07:40 am

Good points Dobber. Between the draft choice (4th?) and the cap hit, that is too much for a backup RB. I would prefer a rookie RB with a late round choice.

+ REPLY
2 points
4
2
CheesyTex's picture

April 02, 2019 at 11:20 am

Trade Kizer. Saves draft ammo and reduces cap hit.

Plus, he has experience with Browns. :-]

+ REPLY
2 points
2
0
PatrickGB's picture

April 02, 2019 at 01:54 pm

Yes it’s a bit too high for a back that complains a lot. His current team doesn’t need/want him. He is good as a receiver but we supposedly have that already. Perhaps a lower pick might work out. And then there is the cap hit for a RB that only has run for three hundred yards a season is a bit too high a price. I agree with the posters who say we need another RB but we could get another in the draft for cheaper. Yet if we could get him at a reasonable price then I am ok with it.

+ REPLY
0 points
0
0
MarkinMadison's picture

April 02, 2019 at 11:19 am

He is under contract for three seasons, and the numbers are pretty minimal. $1.8M this year, increasing to $4.25 in 2021. Unless he is willing to hold out, money is not a reason to skip on him. You draft a guy in the fourth and sure, you'll pay less money, and have him for one year more than Johnson, but Johnson is a proven contributor.

+ REPLY
4 points
4
0
jeremyjjbrown's picture

April 02, 2019 at 06:43 am

If it's for a 6 or 7th rounder I am fine with it. The Bears just set the asking price pretty low for young depth at RB

+ REPLY
3 points
3
0
Razer's picture

April 02, 2019 at 06:47 am

Totally agree with posters one and two. Lots of good RB's available via the draft that can fit the bill. Would love to see David Montgomery in the 3rd round.

+ REPLY
3 points
3
0
CoachJV's picture

April 02, 2019 at 06:49 am

Ye of little faith...

When Aaron Jones hits 2000 all purpose yards this season, all of you who clamor for a new back will be eating your shorts.

Sure, we could use a 3rd back... but not to put in front of Jones. Jones is going to feast on defenses in LaF's system.

+ REPLY
1 points
4
3
dobber's picture

April 02, 2019 at 06:56 am

I think Johnson would be the 1b to Jones's 1a. We all seem to agree that Jones can't be a prototypical workhorse based on his track record of injury. Johnson seems to be cut from a similar mold, can spell Jones, and wouldn't require a rework of the offense if Jones got hurt.

+ REPLY
8 points
8
0
Coldworld's picture

April 02, 2019 at 07:03 am

So Johnson would replace Williams? Or would he be Jones’ alternate, primarily in the case of injury? Either way, doesn’t seem logical; Williams is not a dud and Johnson seems no more of a star while signing him to be depth would appear to be putting him back into a not dissimilar log jam than he wants out of, if not quite as submerged still not a starter.

+ REPLY
6 points
6
0
mrtundra's picture

April 02, 2019 at 09:00 am

Why would we bury Jamaal Williams' talent by making him our third RB? I am very comfortable with Williams as our 2nd RB. He is the guy we want running the ball on 3rd and short, too. I say no to Duke Johnson and then grab an RB in the 6th or 7th round of the Draft. No cap issues and time to develop for the new RB.

+ REPLY
4 points
5
1
CoachJV's picture

April 02, 2019 at 08:24 pm

I think this is the year Jones shakes the injury bug. In fact, the only reason he sat the last couple of game was because the season was over. Jones was not so hurt that he couldn't have played... if the games had been meaningful, he would have and not been sent to IR... so I don't really see him as injury prone. At least he's not nearly as bad as King...

I called it here today... 2000+ APY for Aaron Jones in 2019

+ REPLY
-1 points
0
1
RCPackerFan's picture

April 02, 2019 at 07:07 am

Johnson would be a good pick up if they can get him for a lower draft pick. In reality how many 6-7th round draft picks make the 53? And out of those 53 how many have an impact? Not that many.
So if they can exchange a 6/7th round pick for him, that would be a great move.

I saw stats yesterday that showed how good Johnson was. I can't remember the exact numbers but he has been one of the top receiving RB's since 2015. Adding a versatile type of RB like that could add more flexibility to the offense. Johnson might be a perfect fit for what LaFleur wants to do.

If the compensation is right, I would be all for trading for Johnson.

+ REPLY
5 points
6
1
CheesyTex's picture

April 02, 2019 at 11:32 am

And, adding Johnson's skill set would take some pressure off need for a slot receiver, giving Gute more draft and $ flexibility in roster building.

+ REPLY
4 points
4
0
RCPackerFan's picture

April 02, 2019 at 12:27 pm

I do think LaFleur will use the RB's a lot more in the passing game. Adding a guy like Johnson would really give him options with what he wants to do with formations and with plays. I think he would be a nice addition.

+ REPLY
2 points
2
0
Rick1's picture

April 02, 2019 at 07:22 am

Jones first two seasons ended with knee issues. To bet on him to be healthy for a full year and be the focal point could be dangerous. I think they need a more physical wide zone runner like Jacobs or Harris from Bama. This draft has other good runners later in the draft. LaFluer ran so much in Tennessee with those guys. I think if you look at what they are missing it is a hammer. Williams has had moments, but inconsistent.

+ REPLY
3 points
4
1
dobber's picture

April 02, 2019 at 08:47 am

Remember, too, that LaFleur lost his 70-80 catch TE in game 2 of the season, had issues keeping WR and Mariota healthy. They had no choice but to run a lot. He's got a piece in #12 that he hasn't had before. I'll be curious to see just how much they actually run the ball. Remember that MM came to GB talking about running the ball and talked about it every off-season...

+ REPLY
8 points
8
0
Rick1's picture

April 02, 2019 at 08:56 am

Good points. With Rodgers skill set, I would love to see a play action passing game with a commitment to the running game. MM was pass happy and put a lot on Rodgers. Balance will dictate fronts and coverages and that is where they could feast with Rodgers ability to throw.

+ REPLY
4 points
4
0
PeteK's picture

April 02, 2019 at 09:38 am

MM had a great balance with Lacey's few good years and then, " it is balloon" he just floated away.

+ REPLY
6 points
6
0
RCPackerFan's picture

April 02, 2019 at 09:16 am

"Jones first two seasons ended with knee issues. To bet on him to be healthy for a full year and be the focal point could be dangerous."

Both of those games were in Chicago. So just don't have him play opening day and he'll be good.

+ REPLY
4 points
4
0
Spock's picture

April 02, 2019 at 01:51 pm

RC, And now I keep remembering Eddie Lee Ivory and what could have been. Sigh. :(

+ REPLY
1 points
1
0
Archie's picture

April 02, 2019 at 07:23 am

It is clear to me the Packers need a 3rd RB they can count on. Tevin Coleman would have been a good pick-up. Duke Johnson would not be a bad pick-up. A 4th may be too high but a 5th would be more reasonable. The Howard trade is not comparable because that is a one year deal. Yeah, I'm good with a 5 for Duke. Remember Teddy wouldn't give up a 4th for Marshawn Lynch before he went on to join the Seahawks? That was plain ridiculous. Especially when 12 was his college teammate and vouched for his character. Teddy was so conservative - nice to have an anti-teddy GM.

+ REPLY
1 points
5
4
PeteK's picture

April 02, 2019 at 09:06 am

New coach, GM, free agents, and an upcoming draft and you're still looking back and bashing Thompson. Are you sure this isn't Jughead speaking. LOL

+ REPLY
0 points
3
3
Archie's picture

April 02, 2019 at 08:51 am

Just comparing, contrasting and analyzing. Sorry I hit a sensitive spot for you. It's just so nice to be out from under that albatross. His last 3 drafts, combined with his draft and develop philosophy kind of destroyed this team i.e., two years running with sub-500 records. Fans need to appreciate that Gutey is the anti-Teddy.

+ REPLY
3 points
4
1
PeteK's picture

April 02, 2019 at 09:39 am

However, we would all love it if he has a run similar to Thompson's.

+ REPLY
1 points
2
1
4thand1's picture

April 02, 2019 at 12:00 pm

The earlier, not the latter.

+ REPLY
5 points
5
0
wildbill's picture

April 02, 2019 at 12:43 pm

I think Lynch’s attitude might have been a factor in TTs decision

+ REPLY
0 points
0
0
michaelturi's picture

April 02, 2019 at 07:24 am

Can he return kicks?

+ REPLY
1 points
1
0
LeotisHarris's picture

April 02, 2019 at 08:21 am

I bet he could if he tried.

I think the real question is can we trust a guy named Randy who goes by "Duke?" Take that scenario anywhere north of Hwy 8 in Wisconsin, and you'll find a guy looking to pawn his video games to make rent.

+ REPLY
7 points
8
1
dobber's picture

April 02, 2019 at 08:48 am

Funny how you spell "buy beer" as "make rent".

+ REPLY
6 points
6
0
mrtundra's picture

April 02, 2019 at 09:04 am

Funny!

+ REPLY
3 points
3
0
4thand1's picture

April 02, 2019 at 12:03 pm

See lots of guys around Eagle River, sitting on a snowbank drinking beer,lol.

+ REPLY
3 points
3
0
KnockTheSnotOutOfYou's picture

April 02, 2019 at 08:04 am

I have been thinking all along those 4th round selections would be ideal for a couple of offensive lineman. This is right about where the Pack consistently hit successfully on OL. Now with the offensive lineman guru scout from Baltimore the Pack should be able to select some quality lineman in draft.

I see Jones and William's more involved in the passing game this year. What they do for a 3rd RB and when will be interesting.

+ REPLY
4 points
5
1
PeteK's picture

April 02, 2019 at 08:24 am

I think Duke would be a great addition , but unfortunately too expensive . His three year contract is for 3,4,5 mill plus a draft pick. I love Jones ,but lets face facts, he's injury prone. Running back is a need that has to be addressed in the draft, at least in the 4th round. I also like Montgomery ,but he has mileage on the tires. However, Miles Sanders has all the ability and less wear and tear.

+ REPLY
0 points
1
1
ckoski's picture

April 02, 2019 at 08:44 am

Justice Hill from Oklahoma St. will do the job for less.

+ REPLY
0 points
1
1
Archie's picture

April 02, 2019 at 08:59 am

RB Justice Hill would be a nick pick somewhere along the way.

WR Harry impresses me as a good pick-up at 30 or 44.

However, Oliver/Hock at 12 and BPA at S @30 is probably the way we're going. Would complete the rebuild of our defense and begin the partial rebuild of our offense. Would like to add a couple of OL by end of R4. Gotta protect the franchise.

+ REPLY
-1 points
1
2
PeteK's picture

April 02, 2019 at 01:43 pm

Sanders is Justice fast as Hill ,but Miles more talented.

+ REPLY
0 points
0
0
ckoski's picture

April 02, 2019 at 10:06 am

I wouldn't be upset with Sanders, but I think he is likely to go in the third. i think 75 is too high to invest in another running back, and Hill is more likely to be there at 114 or 118. Of course, Gutey has shown a willingness to move around, so those slots may not be where the Packers actually pick, but as of the moment I think Hill in the 4th is a better value than Sanders in the third. I envision Hill being a big threat receiving out of the backfield.
Not that I know anything...the longer I follow the draft and the more fun I have speculating, the more I realize how little I know!

+ REPLY
1 points
1
0
jannes bjornson's picture

April 02, 2019 at 04:01 pm

He may take a RB in the second rd for all we know. If LeFleur wants a running game, he may want a bell cow.

+ REPLY
0 points
0
0
Lphill's picture

April 02, 2019 at 08:53 am

I met Aaron Jones this past weekend, nice kid but not built like a football player, he needs to hit the weight room more and maybe add a few pounds or his body is going to break down.

+ REPLY
-2 points
0
2
AgrippaLII's picture

April 02, 2019 at 09:10 am

I'm confident that LaFleur and Gutekunst are well aware of the need for another running back or two...and they probably would like Johnson...but the coffers are nearly empty. I'm also confident that LaFleur has a short list of RB's in this year's draft and Gutekunst will get at least one of them.

+ REPLY
1 points
1
0
Coldworld's picture

April 02, 2019 at 03:04 pm

It is certain that we will bring in running backs, but I think that the third will be an injury back up and will likely not be a vet because of that, and cost, but a player with an upside for the future, with another hitting the PS.

+ REPLY
1 points
1
0
Packers2020's picture

April 02, 2019 at 09:27 am

No thanks.
We can draft a RB that has more upside and cheaper.

+ REPLY
-1 points
0
1
porupack's picture

April 02, 2019 at 10:09 am

So Aaron Jones is 5'9" and 208
Duke Johnson is 5'9" and 210

That must be some well placed 2 lb of steel that makes Johnson so much more durable.

+ REPLY
3 points
4
1
MarkinMadison's picture

April 02, 2019 at 11:24 am

I think the idea is to rotate them.

+ REPLY
1 points
1
0
Coldworld's picture

April 02, 2019 at 03:10 pm

We all loved that last year. Jones stats suggest he is special. The question is durability. Finding a RB how would be able to produce as Jones has will be very improbable. Therefore don’t look for a Jones lite but to have plays that maximize the abilities of the RBs on the roster.

If Jones is healthy, play Jones and spell him with Williams, but running different play trees. If Jones is not healthy, game plan around your best avsilable RB. To do ortherwise is to repeat the late era MM foolishness of running the plays regardless of player.

+ REPLY
1 points
1
0
RCPackerFan's picture

April 02, 2019 at 11:26 am

Vibranium...

+ REPLY
4 points
4
0
Spock's picture

April 02, 2019 at 01:55 pm

lol

+ REPLY
1 points
1
0
dobber's picture

April 02, 2019 at 03:20 pm

Adamantium

+ REPLY
2 points
2
0
leche's picture

April 02, 2019 at 11:34 am

What? You want to give up a 4th round draft pick for a 5th year RB when we can just draft someone on Day 3 anyway? I don't follow that logic at all...

Sit on your 4th round draft pick and see how the draft unfolds. Worst case scenario is you spend a 4th round pick on a rookie RB to fill that role.

+ REPLY
2 points
2
0
Coldworld's picture

April 02, 2019 at 03:11 pm

I agree, RBs at the backend of the roster are often FAs post draft.

+ REPLY
0 points
0
0
ShooterMcGee's picture

April 02, 2019 at 11:42 am

It seems to me that the writers here always overestimate the compensation needed to acquire a player. We were told it would take A # 1 for Antonio Brown when in reality it was a #3. Jordan Howard a 1000 yards a year rusher was traded for a 6th rounder. Duke Johnson will be traded for a 7th round choice same as Ty Montgomery. At that price I would make the trade.

+ REPLY
6 points
6
0
RCPackerFan's picture

April 02, 2019 at 12:11 pm

How about trading him for a 2020 7th round pick. Essentially using the pick they got for Montgomery.

+ REPLY
3 points
3
0
jamesmartins's picture

April 02, 2019 at 01:24 pm

Sorry, 4th round is too pricey for a RB. How many years can we get from him? 4 Max? How we gonna pay him and Aaron Jones in these 4 years? Is he a game changer?
You guys have to think long-term wise. Draft is the best way.

+ REPLY
4 points
5
1
Littlejim51's picture

April 02, 2019 at 02:10 pm

A.Jones and Williams are not being replaced.
Duke Johnson is a healthy proven veteran RB.Matt LaFleur uses multiple backs in his offense. Mixing it up with Duke keeps everyone fresh, offers more flexibility in the running and passing game. His contract is minimal.
Whatever round player 120 falls into Rd 4-6 or whatever rounds the Packers have multiple picks is what Duke is worth. Probably get Duke for the HaHa pick. Not bad in my opinion.

+ REPLY
0 points
0
0
leche's picture

April 02, 2019 at 02:52 pm

You could use that same pick on a rookie RB who has less wear and tear and will cost less... Non-superstar RBs are a dime a dozen in the league. There's no reason to pay much for a middling depth veteran who adds nothing a rookie wouldn't

+ REPLY
1 points
1
0
Coldworld's picture

April 02, 2019 at 03:17 pm

And, are you seriously suggesting a three back rotation? Doing more with RBs does not require using 3 on game day out of choice.

There is one exception to that: if we were lucky enough to acquire a RB who had the return chops to be our legitimate punt and kick returner. Unfortunately, however, the chances of that are remote.

+ REPLY
0 points
1
1
leche's picture

April 02, 2019 at 04:47 pm

I believe the primary concern is what to do if Jones gets injured... Not having to fall back to a Ty Montgomery situation would be ideal. But again, RBs are a dime a dozen, there's no reason to overpay to add depth at that position when one can be acquired very cheaply mid-season (see: Christine Michael being claimed off waivers in 2016).

+ REPLY
2 points
2
0
Littlejim51's picture

April 02, 2019 at 04:50 pm

i know RB's in the draft are a dime a dozen, that is why the packers have enough of them. what they do is play special teams.
When Jones gets hurt and I'm waiting for williams to have a second 100 yard game, I'll take Duke Johnson as my 2nd back.He won't play like Ty Montgomery or fumble like some rookie. Maybe Duke can return punts and Kickoffs.Anybody see him do it.

+ REPLY
-1 points
0
1
Doug Niemczynski's picture

April 03, 2019 at 11:41 am

I like him.

+ REPLY
0 points
0
0

Log in to comment and more!

Not a member yet? Join free.

If you have already commented on Cheesehead TV in the past, we've created an account for you. Just verify your email, set a password and you're golden.