John Dorsey: Running back Duke Johnson is 'very valuable' to Browns

Never say never when it comes to Cleveland Browns general manager John Dorsey and player moves, but he did not sound eager to trade running back Duke Johnson when he spoke on a conference call on Thursday.

“He is a really good player,” Dorsey said. “He is a very valuable asset on this team.”

Johnson has been a contributor as a runner and receiving option, but speculation about his future stated when the Browns signed Kareem Hunt in February. Since Freddie Kitchens said Nick Chubb is the Browns' starting back, Hunt and Johnson would be two players with the same change-of-pace role.

Cleveland.com reported that the Browns are shopping Johnson and are more than willing to trade him. It’s possible Johnson might welcome a new team if he felt that his role would diminish, but that’s not known.

The Browns may not be able to do anything with Johnson until they know the length of Hunt’s suspension for the altercation he had a year ago that saw him kick a woman in the hallway outside his Cleveland apartment.

That’s just one of several items are that are up next for the Browns as the excitement continues about the acquisition of receiver Odell Beckham Jr.

Among other items on the “what’s ahead” list:

The future of defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah -- along with Johnson. Ogbah had a strong rookie season and seemed to be growing as a player in his second season opposite Myles Garrett. But a foot injury that required surgery ended 2017 after 10 games, and his play dropped in 2018. The acquisition of Olivier Vernon from the Giants puts Ogbah into a reserve role, and ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported the Browns are shopping him. “There are people in the National Football League, the teams, and they call every day about certain players,” Dorsey said. “Right now, those two guys are Cleveland Browns; they both are really good football players. But teams call around to a lot of different scenarios all of the time.”

The timetable on a decision on Hunt’s suspension. The Browns await word just like their fans. “I can’t speak for the league on when they are going to do their ruling,” Dorsey said. “All I can do is wait for them and just see what happens.”

The next right guard. Dorsey said the team drafted Austin Corbett 33rd overall a year ago for a reason, but he’s not going to give him the job in March. “By no means do you anoint him right now,” Dorsey said. The Browns signed former Bear Eric Kush on Thursday. He can play guard or center, and figures to be part of the competition. Last year’s starter, Kevin Zeitler, was traded to the Giants in the Beckham deal.

Who steps in for linebacker Jamie Collins? Dorsey gave the initial nod to Genard Avery, whom he drafted in 2018 and who he said “played at a really nice level last year.” Dorsey added he would not hesitate to add more competition at the spot.

Drew Stanton remains the choice to back up Baker Mayfield. It might seem that given the addition of Beckham that the Browns need a backup with more recent playing experience. With the increased talent level on offense, why risk a significant backslide if Mayfield has to miss some games? But Stanton has gone 10-6 as a starter, and Dorsey and Kitchens believe he is more than capable.

The possibility of signing Eric Berry as a free agent. The trade of Jabrill Peppers in the Beckham deal leaves a need at safety alongside Damarious Randall. Dorsey knows Berry, a cancer survivor who was released Wednesday by Kansas City. “I think he is a fine, fine person,” Dorsey said. “Of course, we are going to do our research, and if we feel that he fits this organization, of course we will make some calls to his representatives.”

Getting back into the first round of the draft. The 17th overall pick went to New York. Dorsey said if a move happened it probably would not take place until the night of the draft. “If we deem that there is a player to move up for – that is a hypothetical – if you think the player can help you, you go up and do it,” Dorsey said. “Those are the mechanisms that work out. You have to plan for them, but then you have to execute them on the day of the draft.”