After months of pushing back against his public and private trade requests, the Cleveland Browns finally granted Duke Johnson’s wish on Thursday, dealing the running back to the Houston Texans in exchange for a conditional 2020 draft pick.

According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the pick exchanged in the deal is a fourth-rounder that can become a third-rounder in 2020.

Announced ahead of the Browns’ preseason opener vs. the Washington Redskins, the trade gives Houston an instant upgrade at the No. 2 running back spot, left unclaimed following the Texans’ surprise release of former 2017 third-round draft pick D’Onta Foreman earlier this week.

Even if the conditional draft pick remains a fourth-rounder, Cleveland may ultimately get the last laugh considering the Browns had all but buried Johnson on their own running back depth chart following the addition of former Kansas City Chiefs running back Kareem Hunt behind starter Nick Chubb this offseason. A fourth-round pick, after all, is no small haul for a backup that would’ve cost the Browns more than $13 million over the next three seasons.

At any rate, it had been clear for much of the offseason that Johnson intended to play elsewhere. Everyone from general manager John Dorsey to head coach Freddie Kitchens downplayed the possibility of a trade. At one point, quarterback Baker Mayfield made headlines for essentially questioning Johnson’s loyalty to the team, but countless reports indicated that Cleveland was willing to listen to offers and, even more so, that Johnson desired a new home after a brief history of apparent under-utilization on the field.

Despite the steep price tag in Thursday’s trade, Johnson figures to slot into a prominent role behind Lamar Miller in Houston as soon as he recovers from a training-camp hamstring injury. Originally a third-round pick in 2015, Johnson caught at least 45 passes in each of his first four NFL seasons, logging a career-high 74 catches for 693 yards in 2017, while also averaging 4.3 yards per carry since entering the NFL.

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August 8, 2019 at 11:12AM