Duke Johnson Jr. is as excited as he is relieved to iron out a new contract before offseason workouts conclude later this week.
"It feels good," the fourth-year Browns running back said Tuesday before minicamp. "Finally got it over with."
Johnson and the Browns agreed to a three-year extension Thursday, ensuring the former Miami star continues thriving in Cleveland.
The versatile and elusive Johnson (5-9, 210) led the Browns with 1,041 all-purpose yards and seven touchdowns last season. As Cleveland struggled through a winless campaign, he was a consistent, dependable bright spot on the field and emerged as a leader off it.
Johnson believes general manager John Dorsey and the front office's commitment to him means he's earned the right to continue a promising career with the Browns. He's also optimistic it's the start of better things to come for a team that's 4-44 since he was drafted in 2015.
"That's a good sign on my part," Johnson said. "I've been going out each year and doing my job – whatever that may be at that time – and proving to the organization that I'm a consistent guy that is going to give you his all game in and game out."
The Browns hold practice on the first day of veteran minicamp.
Equally dangerous in both the run and pass games, Johnson joined Herschel Walker as the only running back to total at least 500 yards receiving in each of his first three seasons. The all-time leading rusher at Miami, Johnson said he's still "trying to find" an on-field identity but "last year was definitely a good start."
"I'm just trying to figure out what I want to be in this league – what kind of player," he said. "Moving forward, last year is just something I can build on."
Johnson is expected to again play a significant role for the Browns next season; he'll have help, too. Cleveland added veteran quarterback Tyrod Taylor, Pro Bowl receiver Jarvis Landry and running back Carlos Hyde among others in free agency. The Browns also tabbed former Steelers OC Todd Haley this past winter to lead the new-look unit.
"I talk to my family and my brothers all the time about how, on paper, we have a solid team. A very good team on paper," he said. "But again, we have to come out and perform. Everyone has to be on the same page. Everyone has to know what we're doing, game in and game out. We just have to make sure we prepare like we want to win."
Toward the end of last season, Johnson expressed a desire to finish his career with the Browns. Cleveland believed in him, he said, when other clubs didn't, drafting him with the 77th overall pick in the 2015 draft.
In a new-look offense, he's eager to see what he can do.
"I'm ready for the challenge," he said. "I'm ready to come back – after these three days – to training camp and really show what I can do."