The Browns' third-round pick in 2015 reached agreement Thursday with the team on a three-year contract extension through 2021. It's worth $15.6 million, including $7.74 million guaranteed and a $5 million signing bonus, his agent Kristen Campbell told cleveland.com.
NFL Network's Mike Garafolo was the first to report the deal was close, and the Browns later announced the move. It marks the first extension by new GM John Dorsey, who's mostly been trading veteran players, six in all.
"Duke Johnson is a good football player," Dorsey said in a release. "His hard work and commitment to the Browns organization is appreciated and we're excited to extend his contract and keep him in a Browns uniform for years to come. ... He leads by example and we look forward to him playing an important role with the Cleveland Browns moving forward."
Johnson is excited to be locked in for what believes is an imminent turnaround.
"It's fun to see how this team is shaping out and I want to be a part of it," he said. "You can see it with the guys they brought in on offense like Tyrod (Taylor) and (Jarvis) Landry plus the guys we already had. I think bringing in (offensive coordinator Todd) Haley adds another dimension to our offense and it gives coach (Hue) Jackson the chance to be the head coach. John Dorsey has been bringing in guys that can play, that can ball, and that gives us a chance. Now it's about going out and doing it now."
The $5 million bonus is more than Johnson's entire four-year rookie contract of $3,105,092, including $710,092 guaranteed. Johnson will be among the 10 best-paid backs in the NFL, according to spotrac.com.
His $5.2 million in the three new years of the deal will make him the No. 8 highest paid back behind Dallas' Zeke Elliott ($6.239 million) and just above Cincinnati's Giovanni Bernard ($5.166 million). He nudges new teammate Carlos Hyde, signed as a free agent in March, back to No. 10 at $5.083 million.
During the first week of OTAs May 23, Johnson indicated he had some reassurance from the team that he'd stick around, despite the Hyde signing and selection of Georgia's Nick Chubb in the second round of the April draft.
The highest paid back in the league is Pittsburgh's Le'Veon Bell at $14.544 million.
Despite all the losing, Johnson has always wanted to be here when the tide turns, and believes that time is near.
"I've always seen that it could be special," he said. "It's just up to the players and staff to get us to that point. I'm looking forward to it. I'm excited. I'm always optimistic about each year ... and trying to figure out what our identity is going to be, how many games we're going to win and what we're going to do.
"At the end of the day, regardless of what's going on, I know I have a job to do and my main goal is to go out and do my job, regardless of record, regardless of weather, regardless of what's going on."
Johnson, who will be 25 in September, was asked in December if he had to give himself a pep talk about coming back in 2018.
"Me? No shot," he said. "And the reason being is this is the organization that gave me my shot. Drafted in the third round, a lot of teams passed on me, but this team took me. And I want nothing more than to start and finish my career here."
Even as the Browns were about to go winless, Johnson delivered constant effort when given the ball, scrapping and stiff-arming for extra yardage. And he never lost hope that the Browns would turn it around.
With Hyde and Chubb set to share the power-running load, Johnson will most likely be featured again as a third-down back and receiver, although he's been pressing for more carries. He also went to Jackson last offseason and asked for more touches, and got them -- primarily as the slot receiver.
In 2017, Johnson led the Browns in receptions (74) and receiving yards (693) while totaling seven touchdowns. His receptions and yards were a franchise best for a running back in a season.
He joined Herschel Walker (1986-88) as the the only NFL running backs to record 500 receiving yards in each of their first three seasons. Appearing in all 48 games with eight starts, Johnson ranks first in the NFL in scrimmage yards per touch (6.3), receiving yards (1,741) and receptions (188) since 2015.
Last season, he finished with a career-high 1,041 scrimmage yards and averaged 6.7 scrimmage yards per touch, third-most among NFL backs.