BEREA — The trade request by running back Duke Johnson’s agent hasn’t changed the mindset of Browns general manager John Dorsey.
“I continually keep telling you all that Duke’s a very talented football player,” Dorsey said Thursday at a pre-draft news conference. “We see a lot of stuff for Duke moving forward in the future. He’s a member of this organization moving forward.”
Johnson was frustrated by his lack of touches last year — 40 rushes, 47 receptions — and the frustration grew when the Browns signed running back Kareem Hunt in February. Hunt is expected to take over Johnson’s role after serving an eight-game suspension to start the season.
Johnson hasn’t attended the voluntary offseason program that began April 1 and includes a minicamp next week. The mandatory minicamp is in June, and Dorsey was asked if Johnson will attend.
“We haven’t talked to he or his representatives about that,” he said.
Johnson’s agent, Kristin Campbell, believes if Johnson will be expendable at midseason, the Browns might as well trade him now. She conveyed that to the Browns, but Dorsey said it hasn’t changed his plans on how to proceed with Johnson.
“No, when you sit down with Freddie (Kitchens) and the coaching staff, they see him as a vital part of this offense moving forward,” Dorsey said. “He’s a good playmaker.”
Dorsey has discussed potential trades for Johnson with other teams but doesn’t intend to move him if the deal isn’t right. The draft next week could create that opportunity.
Dorsey said he’s talked to Campbell and Kitchens has texted Johnson, who totaled 1,041 yards from scrimmage and seven touchdowns in 2017.
“He understands the role that he’s going to play within this offense, and that’s what’s important because Duke, everybody knows, is a very talented playmaker, and I look forward to seeing him on the field on Sundays,” Dorsey said. “He’s really good and he’s going to help this offense.”
DOING THE WORK
Hunt hasn’t spoken to the media since he was signed, but Dorsey said he’s doing all the right things. Hunt was suspended by the league after a pair of altercations, including one in which he shoved and kicked a woman.
“Kareem’s done a heckuva job,” he said. “I couldn’t be happier with how hard he’s working in the building, I couldn’t be happier with how hard he’s working out of the building. And that’s all you can ask for him.
“He’s committed to doing the proper steps here in getting this thing moved forward.”
OK WITH OBJ
Receiver Odell Beckham Jr. attended the first day of the offseason program but has been absent since. He was acquired March 13 in a trade and said he usually trains in Los Angeles.
“Anytime, as an organization, you have a first-year coaching staff and you’re installing new offenses and new defenses, it’s good to be here,” Dorsey said. “But let’s remember the CBA created this where it’s a voluntary situation.
“I think he’s an experienced enough player that he’ll understand what he has to do to put himself in the best position and put this team in the best position.”
IN THE SPOTLIGHT
Dorsey downplayed the release of the schedule Wednesday — “games are won and lost in the fall,” he said — but acknowledged the players and fans appreciate the four prime-time games.
“The players get excited to play in prime time,” he said. “It also gives the country a chance to see, when we play home at FirstEnergy, how passionate the fan base truly is and how exciting football is here in Cleveland.”
Dorsey said the hype is “heightened” by being in the national spotlight and will recommend to Kitchens to keep the focus simple as the schedule shifts.
“Stay consistent, stay consistent with how you approach each game, stay consistent in your routine moving forward and make sure there’s attention to detail in terms of how you address each one of these games week in and week out,” he said. “Don’t look too far ahead and concentrate on the task at hand.”
Defensive tackle Dre’Mont Jones, a graduate of Ohio State and St. Ignatius, could be in the mix for the Browns with the No. 49 pick of the draft. He participated in Cleveland’s local pro day last week, and Dorsey came away impressed.
“A great kid,” Dorsey said. “When you combine his ability to play the game of football and the person, you couldn’t be more happy to have a player like that on your team.”
** Dorsey said Eric Murray, who was acquired from the Chiefs on April 1 in a trade for defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah, can play both safety spots and nickel cornerback, as well as starring on special teams.
** Dorsey wouldn’t rule out drafting a kicker to compete with incumbent Greg Joseph but said he had a bad experience during his time in Green Bay drafting a kicker and a punter.