JACKSONVILLE – His smile was as wide as it was real.
D'Ernest Johnson said there were multiple reasons for this after officially signing with the Jaguars on Thursday afternoon, and one was pretty simple.
"They've got something special going on here, and I want to be a part of it," he said.
Johnson (5-feet-10, 208 pounds), a fifth-year veteran running back, signed with the Jaguars as an unrestricted free agent after spending his first four NFL seasons with the Cleveland Browns.
"They've got a great offense, great quarterback, great wide receivers and a great running back in Travis Etienne [Jr.]," he said of the Jaguars. "It's a great team."
Johnson, 27, the cousin of Hall of Fame running back Edgerrin James, played collegiately at the University of South Florida. Like James, he was born in Immokalee, Fla.
"When my agent told me, 'Jacksonville,' I was happy,'' Johnson said. "I was like, 'Let's do it. Let's make it happen. Being back home, in Florida … it's coming back home."
Johnson, after being invited to the New Orleans Saints' rookie minicamp following the 2018 NFL Draft, played eight games with the Orlando Apollos of Alliance of American Football in 2019. After the AAF ceased operations, Johnson signed with the Browns.
He played 64 games with two starts in four seasons with the Browns, rushing for 738 yards and three touchdowns on 141 carries. He has career 31 receptions for 229 yards. His career-best season was 2022, when he rushed for 534 yards and three touchdowns on 100 carries.
"I still feel young," Johnson said. "No wear and tear. No mileage. I'm ready to go out there and make plays."
Johnson's signing gives the Jaguars four running backs on the roster: Etienne, fourth-year veteran JaMycal Hasty, second-year veteran Snoop Conner.
Etienne, the No. 25 overall selection in the 2021 NFL Draft, rushed for 1,125 yards and five touchdowns on 220 carries in 2022. Hasty, who played his first two seasons with the San Francisco 49ers, rushed for 194 yards and two touchdowns on 46 carries in 2022. Conner, a fifth-round selection in the 2022 NFL Draft, rushed 42 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries in 2022.