Freddie Kitchens and Baker Mayfield Were Having None of Duke Johnson's Trade Request, Which is Odd Given That They Acted as Though He Wasn't Even on the Team Last Year
Free of context, I don't hate those answers from the first-time head coach and the second-year quarterback of a team that should be prioritizing cohesiveness, discipline, dedication, and loyalty throughout an organization that has suffered from a lack there of throughout multiple decades of doomed dysfunction.
I just think they'd make a hell of a lot more sense if they weren't in reference to a previously productive, longer-tenured player who, up until this point, hasn't said boo despite being treated like a complete afterthought throughout last regular season and this offseason. As a versatile back who is in his prime as a reliable runner and the perfect complimentary playmaker in the age of pass-happy offenses, Duke Johnson Jr. somehow had all of one single game with double-digit touches last year. That year, mind you, was one in which Baker Mayfield (mostly) served as his quarterback and Freddie Kitchens served as his position coach turned offensive coordinator. Enter Kareem Hunt alongside Nick Chubb, and there is next to no reason for someone whose position doesn't allow him many lost seasons to believe that he'll be a oft-utilized beneficiary of the ball distribution in a backfield that has just as many mouthes to feed.
If the Browns didn't make it crystal clear how they felt about Duke Johnson Jr. when they offered him 2-3 pity carries a week then they sure as shit did when they floated his name on the trading block as of March. Therefore, it feels rather hypocritical of their leadership committee to start talking tough and playing hardball as if they aren't well aware of who slapped the 'For Sale' sign on him in the first place. Especially since one of the members of that leadership committee had to transfer schools to get an optimal opportunity and motivated himself to become a quality pro by taking far less legitimate slights personal since.
Contract be damned, since NFL teams have insured themselves a pretty penny by treating those as though they're as binding as a pinky promise with a used-car salesman. Put Baker Mayfield in Duke Johnson Jr.'s shoes and he'd have already been stomping them in hopes of ending up in a situation that better suited what was, objectively speaking, a woefully wasted skill-set. And honestly, it would take someone speaking selfishly in carefully walking the company line to blame him if he did.