Re-signing D'Ernest Johnson gives Jaguars continuity at running back

• D'Ernest Johnson is back with the Jaguars on a one-year deal.

Nov 19, 2023; Jacksonville, Florida, USA;  Jacksonville Jaguars running back D'Ernest Johnson (25)
Nov 19, 2023; Jacksonville, Florida, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars running back D'Ernest Johnson (25) / Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

The Jacksonville Jaguars inked running back D'Ernest Johnson last offseason. It looks like they were pleased with what he brought to the table, as they've given him a one-year deal to return in 2024.

The Jags are bringing back Johnson on a one-year deal, per Adam Schefter of ESPN. The terms of the agreement haven't been revealed yet but they should be soon. By re-signing the former South Florida Bull, the team's brass ensures there's continuity at running back.

An undrafted free agent in 2018, Johnson spent a season with the Orlando Apollos of the Alliance of American Football before signing with the Cleveland Browns in 2019. Behind Nick Chubb and Kareen Hunt, he averaged 5.2 yards per carry. After four seasons in Cleveland, he joined the Jaguars last season.

Johnson was signed partly because he could contribute on special teams, but he would later pass then-rookie Tank Bigsby on the depth chart and make JaMycal Hasty expendable. By midseason, he was firmly entrenched as RB2 behind Travis Etienne. Unfortunately, Johnson wasn't nearly as productive as he was with the Browns, partly because the offensive line couldn't open running lanes.

But even if his 108 yards on 41 carries don't pop off the stat sheet, Johnson provides valuable depth at the position. He fared well when he filled in for Etienne last season, and he could push Bigsby in training camp. Even if he's No. 3 on the depth chart, he could get a couple of carries per game and also contribute on special teams.

Last year, Johnson signed for $1.2 million with $880,625 guaranteed. It's fair to assume that he got a similar deal, and possibly a bit of a raise.

What does the return of D'Ernest Johnson mean for the Jaguars?

The Jaguars needed an RB2 after trading James Robinson to the New York Jets in 2022. JaMycal Hasty became the primary backup behind Travis Etienne once Robinson left. All things considered, he was serviceable, so the front office re-signed him to a two-year deal last offseason. That said, they keep making upgrades at the position. First, they inked D'Ernest Johnson and later drafted Tank Bigsby.

Bigsby was expected to form a tandem alongside Etienne but struggled as a rookie. That's when Johnson stepped in. Having said that, the Jaguars' brass hasn't given up on Bigsby, and if he makes a leap next season, Johnson's role could decrease considerably. Moreover, he's not guaranteed a roster spot even after re-signing. Jacksonville brought back Hasty last year and still moved on from him.

The Jaguars could still draft a running back on Day 3, and if Bigsby shines, Johnson could be on his way out. On the other hand, he proved last year that he was more than capable of holding his own. That's why he was brought back.

The bottom line is that running back is one position the Jacksonville Jaguars don't have to worry about. While it's not a strength per se, it's not a weakness either, and bringing back D'Ernest Johnson gives them ample flexibility.

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