BUFFALO, N.Y. — The Buffalo Bills made two moves to bolster their offense Monday, agreeing to a deal with veteran running back Duke Johnson while also, sources confirmed to ESPN, agreeing to terms with receiver Jamison Crowder on a one-year contract.
Johnson is signing a one-year deal with the team, his agents, Drew Rosenhaus and Robert Bailey, told ESPN’s Adam Schefter. The moves come after Buffalo had lost out on running back J.D. McKissic to the Washington Commanders last week.
The Bills initially agreed to terms with McKissic last Tuesday, but the Commanders ended up swooping in, and — after initially not offering McKissic a deal — gave him a two-year contract worth up to $7 million, similar to what Buffalo was offering.
“I’ve had it before where the agent has agreed with you on something and then someone else calls and says, ‘Hey, what if I add a million dollars? Or what if I do this? What if I guarantee this?'” Bills general manager Brandon Beane said last week, expressing his frustration with how Washington handled the situation. “Once you have an agreement the agent’s supposed to say it’s over. And this agent did that. And this agent told the other club it’s over. But the other club didn’t back off.”
Similar to McKissic, Johnson, 28, has had success as a receiving back in the past, starting his career with five straight seasons with 400-plus receiving yards. He has 12 career receiving touchdowns after spending four seasons with the Browns, two with the Texans and one with the Dolphins.
The 2015 third-round pick played in five games for the Dolphins last year and had some success on the ground. Johnson had two 100-yard rushing performances in the last four games of the season and 330 total rushing yards and three touchdowns on 71 carries for Miami.
Buffalo needed to add depth to the running back room after Matt Breida hit free agency following one season with the Bills and signed with the New York Giants on Monday. Breida saw limited action with the Bills, playing on 13.1% of the team’s offensive snaps. Johnson will likely be in a similar position on the roster and will have to earn his snaps.
Crowder, who turns 29 in June, led the Jets in receptions in each of the past three seasons, becoming the first player since Jerricho Cotchery (2007-09) to do that. On the downside, his production dropped each year, as he went from 78 catches to 59 to 51, with injuries a big factor.
Plagued by soft-tissue leg injuries, Crowder missed nine games over the past two seasons. He was on the reserve/COVID-19 list for one of those games while recovering from a groin injury.
With the release of wide receiver Cole Beasley last week, signing Crowder to a one-year deal gives the Bills an experienced receiver in the slot, where he caught 132 passes from 2019 to 2021, eighth most in the NFL, according to ESPN Stats & Information research.
Returning Bills wide receiver Isaiah McKenzie will also compete for time in the slot. Crowder will likely be a big target for quarterback Josh Allen on third down. Of his 14 touchdowns with the Jets, eight came on third down, and of his 56 third-down receptions over those three years, 43 resulted in first downs.
Despite limited cap space after signing pass-rusher Von Miller, Buffalo continues to find value signings in free agency as the team fills out the roster.
Information from ESPN’s Rich Cimini was used in this report.