Johnson was drafted in the second round of the 2018 NFL Draft. His rookie season was initially very promising, having almost immediately put to bed Detroit’s embarrassingly long streak of games without a 100-yard rusher. However, his first season in the NFL was cut short due to a knee injury.
The following season played out in a similar fashion. A promising start only to suffer another knee injury that required surgery and ended his season on injured reserve again. Johnson’s knee issues would carry over into the following season, as he had to wear a brace following the surgery.
In 2020, the Lions opted to find a new solution to their running back problem by drafting D’Andre Swift in the second round. However, Johnson assumed—and thrived—in a new role as the team’s third-down back. Former running backs coach Kyle Caskey deemed Johnson the best pass-blocking back he’s ever worked with.
Which makes this waiving somewhat surprising in the grand scheme of things. New running backs coach Duce Staley has already mentioned how pass protecting is essential to the position, and Johnson was clearly the best player they had in that aspect of the game. However, the addition of Jamaal Williams in free agency plus the drafting of Jermar Jefferson in the seventh round may have made his spot on the roster more expendable than it appeared.
Johnson, in the final year of his rookie contract, was due to make $2.07 million this season and will leave behind a $700,000 cap hit, and freeing up $1.37 million in new cap space. He finishes his Lions career with 283 rushes for 1,225 yards, 61 receptions for 527 yards, and 11 total touchdowns.