Cleveland Browns: 5 mistakes that set up 2019 for failure

Cleveland Browns Freddie Kitchens (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
Cleveland Browns Freddie Kitchens (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images) /
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Cleveland Browns
Cleveland Browns Duke Johnson (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images) /

Trading Duke Johnson

When the Browns signed Kareem Hunt, the team angered Duke Johnson and he demanded out of Cleveland. Johnson’s time in Cleveland saw him average 542 yards receiving alone from scrimmage during his career with the Browns. With a team that didn’t have a tight end, no slot receiver and a quarterback looking for a check-down option throughout most of the 2019 season, it would have made plenty of sense to have Johnson fill that third receiver role with the team.

Yet, the Browns fumbled the way they handled Johnson. Instead of retaining him, showing him the value he’d bring to the team, and using him in creative packages, they essentially gave him away for peanuts. The move weakened the passing game considerably.

The team didn’t have a slot receiver they could rely on. Antonio Callaway was a mess with all sorts of problems after a solid rookie campaign, and then Rashard Higgins was marginalized into obscurity by Freddie Kitchens, despite putting up over 500 yards in 2018. With Johnson’s versatility and dynamic playmaking abilities, the Browns would have been better off putting him in the slot and transitioning him to a slot receiver for three-quarters of snaps played. Johnson had an amazing ability to make plays one on one, and that would have helped with screenplays, dump outs, and slant routes.

Kareem Hunt wasn’t a bad option, but he’s nowhere near the pass-catching dynamo that Johnson is out of the backfield. Instead of being creative and finding a way to make Johnson useful, the team decided they’d actually stand up to a disgruntled player for the only team all year and traded Johnson to Houston for a measly third-round draft pick.