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D'Ernest Johnson

3 Teams That Should Trade For D’Ernest Johnson

  • Justin Melo
  • June 22, 2022
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According to ESPN’s Jake Trotter, Cleveland Browns running back D’Ernest Johnson could qualify as a prime training camp trade candidate. The Browns are stacked at running back with Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt forming one of the more formidable one-two punches across the league. Browns General Manager Andrew Berry also spent a fifth-round selection in the 2022 NFL Draft on former Cincinnati running back Jerome Ford, who’s essentially a lock to make the Browns’ 53-man roster. The dual-threat Demetric Felton is also in the mix.

Hunt has also been mentioned in potential trade rumors, but Johnson would represent more of an affordable buy-low option for running back-needy teams. Johnson is entering the final year of his contract in 2022 and is unlikely to carve out a role for himself in Cleveland’s busy backfield going forward. Johnson is set to earn a base salary of just $1.065 million in 2022, so his cost-effective contract won’t prevent teams from showing interest.

Johnson made the most of his rare opportunities last season. In a late October contest against the Denver Broncos, Johnson exploded for 146 rushing yards and a touchdown. He later compiled 157 total yards in a November game against the New England Patriots. And finally, he ran for 123 yards and a touchdown against the Cincinnati Bengals in Cleveland’s Week 17 regular-season finale.

Johnson is a capable dual-threat back with sneaky upside. We’ve identified three potential landing spots via trade.


The Lions certainly appear well-stocked at the position on the surface. When healthy, D’Andre Swift has been one of the more efficient ball carriers in the league. Swift has unfortunately had issues maintaining availability, however, only appearing in 22 of a potential 33 regular-season contests across his two professional campaigns. Swift’s health has forced the Lions to roster capable backups. 

Veteran Jamaal Williams is entering a contract season and isn’t a long-term solution. Sophomore Jermar Jefferson is also a capable rusher, but the Lions could use more proven depth at running back, for both 2022 and beyond. Furthermore, there’s a notable connection worth exploring in Detroit. Veteran NFL executive John Dorsey currently serves as Detroit’s senior personnel executive. Dorsey works closely with all areas of the club’s player personnel department. Dorsey was the Browns’ General Manager who originally signed Johnson in Cleveland following an impressive stint with the Orlando Apollos of the Alliance of American Football (AAF) league. Dorsey granted Johnson his first legitimate NFL opportunity, and he could urge the Lions to acquire him for a future day-three draft selection should Johnson find himself on Cleveland’s chopping block.


The Falcons continue their offseason search for dual-threat running backs. Head Coach Arthur Smith is a fan of ball carriers that can also run routes and makes plays coming out of the backfield. Falcons General Manager Terry Fontenot recently signed a similar player in Jeremy McNichols, but McNichols was waived from that contract on June 16. Atlanta’s search for personnel upgrades at running back now continues.

The Falcons are also moving Avery Williams from defensive back to running back this offseason, further proving they’re willing to get creative and attempt just about anything in search of the desired improvement. Cordarrelle Patterson remains in Atlanta after re-signing with the Falcons earlier this offseason, but Patterson is more of a do-it-all weapon than a traditional ball-carrier. Fontenot also drafted former BYU prospect Tyler Allgeier with a fifth-round selection in the 2022 NFL Draft, but Allgeier isn’t expected to move the needle forward much for an offense that fielded the 31st-ranked rushing attack (85.4 rushing yards/game) last season.

Johnson is a better player than Damien Williams and Qadree Ollison, who are both battling for roster spots with the Falcons as we speak. Johnson could actually carve out a borderline starting-like role for himself in Atlanta.


The Vikings don’t have an immediate need at running back. Dalvin Cook is legitimately one of the best running backs in the entire league and Alexander Mattison may be the best high-upside backup, too. Mattison is however entering an ever-important contract season in 2022, and the former Boise State standout is expected to eventually search (and find) a starting opportunity elsewhere. 

Minnesota’s decision-makers could plan for the future by acquiring Johnson and signing him to a cost-effective contract extension as they prepare for Mattison’s likely departure next offseason. Kene Nwangwu is also in the mix, but Nwangwu is more of a special teams ace than an offensive role player as things stand.
Two of Johnson’s biggest supporters in Cleveland happen to now be in Minnesota. Vikings General Manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah served as Cleveland’s Vice President of Football Operations for Johnson’s previous two seasons (2020-21) in Cleveland. When Adofo-Mensah departed Cleveland for Minnesota, he brought Ryan Grigson along with him, who worked as a senior football advisor for the Browns when Johnson originally signed in Cleveland. Minnesota’s newly minted front-office executives are extremely familiar with what Johnson brings to the table.