NFL clubs can find difference-makers in free agency but they can also find undervalued players with the potential to have a big impact. Given their limited amount of cap space, the Jacksonville Jaguars have mostly focused on re-signing their own players and adding depth to their roster. Nevertheless, they got a solid grade for inking running back D'Ernest Johnson.
Cody Benjamin of CBS Sports graded all the signings from the second week of free agency and gave Jacksonville a B for locking up Johnson, noting that he showcased explosiveness during his stint with the Cleveland Browns.
"Travis Etienne Jr. is a centerpiece of the Jaguars' offense, and JaMycal Hasty fared relatively well in relief during the 2022 season. Johnson has low mileage even at 27, however, and was explosive in limited doses for the Browns."
Johnson was one of three players the Jags have signed in free agency. The other two are defensive linemen Michael Dogbe and Henry Mondeaux. Of the three, Johnson has the best chance to make an impact in 2023.
After going undrafted in 2018, Johnson worked out for the New Orleans Saints but wasn't offered a contract. He played for the Orlando Apollos of the Alliance of American Football in 2019 and joined the Cleveland Browns later that year. The South Florida product worked his way up the roster and progressively got more playing time. His best year came in 2021, when he racked up 534 yards with three touchdown on 100 carries.
Johnson will come in and compete with JaMycal Hasty for the No. 2 job behind Etienne. Here's a video of his arrival at the Jaguars' headquarters.
D'Ernest Johnson can have an impact for the Jacksonville Jaguars
The Jaguars were right to wait until the second wave of free agency to start making moves. Putting aside their dearth of cap space, they didn't have as many needs as they had last offseason. Moreover, there were still plenty of players available at a discount rate.
Johnson isn't the missing piece that will propel Jacksonville into the Super Bowl but he gives the Jaguars another running back that can come in a spell Travis Etienne in case he needs to catch his breath or even miss a few games. Back in 2021, Johnson delivered for the Browns in relief of Kareen Hunt and Nick Chubb.
It's telling that the Jaguars' brass brought Johnson even though they just gave Hasty a two-year deal. The fact that he can contribute on special teams should solidify his chances of making the 53-man roster. On top of that, the team secured the Florida native on an affordable one-year deal worth $1.21 million, which makes it even better.
The Jacksonville Jaguars had a pretty productive running game last season but it still had room for improvement. The addition of Johnson should give it a boost, so it's not surprising that this signing got a positive grade.