The Cleveland Browns currently have seven running backs on the depth chart.
— Brad Stainbrook (@StainbrookNFL) May 1, 2022
Of course, some of those players will be designated as practice squad players this fall, but there is still an issue of having too many running backs even for the active 53-man roster.
Somebody is going to be the odd man out, and it could potentially be D’Ernest Johnson.
Here are the players that could stand in his way.
1. Jerome Ford
The Browns have great expectations for rookie Jerome Ford out of the University of Cincinnati.
They believe he is a great fit into the current offensive scheme.
Ford is a patient runner who allows the play and blocks to materialize in front of him.
Jerome Ford showing good patience, vision, and burst here against Houston. Kevin Stefanski uses this same G-Y Counter play with the #Browns in a similar formation as well. He does a great job allowing the pullers to get their blocks before accelerating.
— Matt Wilson (@CoachWilson66) May 8, 2022
If Ford does well, he could find himself on the active roster with the belief that he could make an immediate impact in relief of either Nick Chubb or Kareem Hunt.
2. Jakeem Grant
You are probably thinking a wide receiver and special teams player like Jakeem Grant should not impact D’Ernest Johnson, but having Jakeem Grant on the roster will have a trickle effect on other players who have played on special teams in previous seasons.
@_TheDreamIsHere has great improvisatory skills to make adjustments immediately. The vision and anticipation show an immense football IQ and his elite speed is something that can’t be taught. Jakeem Grant is gonna be a weapon. @DawgsTable
— Andy Gibbs (@SirAndy522) May 9, 2022
Two of those players are Johnson and Demetric Felton.
In 2021, Johnson played in 34% of the special teams snaps, and Felton was in 50% of them.
3. Demetric Felton
The biggest player impacting Johnson’s future is Felton.
He is a favorite among Browns coaches because of his versatility.
Felton can run, catch, and play special teams.
His utility could keep him on the roster potentially at the expense of Johnson.
#Browns scout Max Paulus said Demetric Felton will be in the running back room moving forward. Felton played mostly receiver as a rookie in 2021. Paulus said Jerome Ford will get work at kick returner
— Nate Ulrich (@ByNateUlrich) April 30, 2022
It is premature to say that Johnson will not make the 53-man roster; there are still months of offseason work ahead.
His path became more complicated when the Browns drafted Ford.
The other issue is that Johnson is a restricted free agent, and he is yet to sign his tender from the Browns even though the time has expired for other teams to tender him.
#Browns RFA RB D’Ernest Johnson, who was in attendance at voluntary workouts today, has yet to sign his RFA tender, per source.
— Brad Stainbrook (@StainbrookNFL) May 3, 2022
It is almost as if he is positioning himself to keep his options open because of the crowded running back depth chart.
The Browns could opt to rescind the tender and allow Johnson to sign with another team.
We will keep an eye on this situation and see how it progresses through OTAs and training camp.