BEREA, Ohio (AP) — Duke Johnson’s trade demand hasn’t changed general manager John Dorsey’s opinion of the running back.
“He is a member of this organization moving forward,” Dorsey said.
For the moment.
Dorsey said during his pre-draft news conference Thursday that he’s in no rush to trade the versatile Johnson, whose frustration at having a reduced role last season intensified in February when the Browns signed suspended running back Kareem Hunt.
Johnson’s agent, Kristin Campbell, asked the Browns to deal the 25-year-old, but Dorsey hasn’t moved on the request and indicated he’s not planning to deal one of Cleveland’s best offensive players.
Dorsey said he’s had “good” discussions with Johnson’s representatives and that the former third-round pick knows how he fits in.
“He understands the role that he is going to play within this offense,” Dorsey said. “That is what is important because Duke, as everybody knows, is a very talented playmaker, and I look forward to seeing him on the field on Sundays.”
It remains to be seen whether that’s with the Browns — or another team. Dorsey has received trade inquiries about Johnson and they will likely increase leading up to next week’s draft.
Cleveland doesn’t currently have a first-round pick after trading it to the Giants in the deal for star receiver Odell Beckham Jr., but Johnson could sweeten a package if the Browns covet a player and want to move up from No. 49.
Johnson has not attended the team’s voluntary offseason workout program, a sign of his discontent with the team. Dorsey, though, said he has not spoken with Johnson or his people about the absence.
“I always expect him here,” Dorsey said. “It is voluntary so you can’t (require it). That is a part of the CBA.”
Dorsey said new Browns coach Freddie Kitchens has texted with Johnson. Kitchens was Johnson’s position coach before being promoted to offensive coordinator midway through last season.
Johnson’s workload dipped considerably in 2018, when he had 40 rushes and 47 receptions — both career lows — as the Browns went 7-8-1 after going winless the previous season. Johnson was used mostly on third downs as rookie Nick Chubb became the club’s primary ball carrier and ran for 996 yards.
Johnson was unhappy with the lack of touches, and he became more upset when the Browns signed Hunt, the former Chiefs star who is expected to take his role after serving an eight-game NFL suspension to start next season.
Dorsey was asked if Johnson had to be convinced about his role.
“There are 53 guys on this football team. It is about winning,” Dorsey said. “That is the sole objective of this thing moving forward is winning football. Is he a talented football player? Yeah, he is really good, and he is going to help this offense move forward.”
As for Hunt, Dorsey praised his commitment since joining the Browns. Hunt was banned eight games by the league for two physical altercations, one involving him shoving and kicking a woman during an argument in a Cleveland hotel last year.
“Kareem has done one heck of a job,” Dorsey said. “He has been working his fanny off in the building. I could not be happier with how hard he is working in the building. I could not be happier with how hard he is working out of the building. That is all you can ask of him. He is committed to doing the proper steps here in getting this thing moving forward.”
Hunt has not been available to the media since signing a one-year contract with Cleveland.
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