The Browns already have two expensive running backs in Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt, and so there’s little chance that they’ll spend significant money to keep third-string running back D'Ernest Johnson. But they’re putting themselves in position to keep Johnson if the price is right.
Cleveland tendered Johnson, a restricted free agent, with a right-of-first-refusal number. That means that if Johnson wants to, he can sign a one-year, $2.4 million contract and stay with the Browns in 2022, then hit free agency in 2023.
Johnson is also free to sign a contract with any other team, but if he does the Browns can match that contract. If the Browns don’t match the offer, Johnson would go to his new team and the Browns would not receive any compensation.
Johnson has played well enough in limited action that some team might decide to sign him, and given what the Browns have invested in Chubb and Hunt, it seems unlikely that the Browns would match an offer that pays Johnson much more than that $2.4 million tender. But the Browns like Johnson enough that they’re leaving themselves the opportunity to keep him at the right price.