Duke Johnson reportedly drawing trade interest

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The Cleveland Browns are in no rush to thin out their backfield before finding out the results of Kareem Hunt's suspension. However, teams can still try to see what it would cost to pry Duke Johnson out of Cleveland.

Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com reported Monday that at least three teams are believed to be interested in trading for Johnson, and more could jump in the fray if the Browns become serious about shipping the pass-catching back out of town.

In February, Browns GM John Dorsey noted that Johnson is not "expendable, yet," which set the table for teams to inquire about whether Cleveland is already ready to move on with Nick Chubb and Hunt as their primary backs.

Chubb taking over lead duties last season forced Johnson into a strictly pass-catching role. He tallied just 40 carries all last season, never more than five in a game. After Freddie Kitchens took over the offense, Johnson never carried the ball more than four times in a game. Johnson compiled 47 catches for 429 yards and three touchdown receptions.

If Hunt sees the field for Cleveland in 2019, he could take over much of the pass-catching role from Johnson, making the incumbent superfluous.

Johnson signed a three-year, $15.6 million contract last offseason. Trading the running back wouldn't save the Browns many pennies on the salary cap. His deal would leave $2.25 million in dead money, and his base salary of $1.8 million becomes guaranteed on March 15, per Over The Cap.

It makes little sense for the Browns to ship Johnson out of town right now with Hunt's looming suspension. If Hunt's suspension doesn't take him out most of the year, perhaps Dorsey will review his offers for Johnson closer to draft time. The pass-catcher can help a team willing to give snaps to a shifty weapon out of the backfield. Until we know Hunt's suspension, however, this is an exercise in speculation.

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