Whatever the case, Johnson's name has once again surfaced in trade talks.
According to a story that appeared in this morning's Akron Beacon Journal, the Browns have given agent Tom Condon permission to work out a trade with another NFL club.
While the Browns are not commenting on the rumor, Johnson confirmed "it's pretty much true."
Two weeks ago, when the Browns signed first-round pick William Green, who is also represented by Condon, team president Carmen Policy said the club would turn its attention to extending Johnson's contract
The two sides hit a road block this week when Condon asked for a contract that included a signing bonus similar to the $5-million the Bears gave Marty Booker in June. The Browns are believed to be offering between $3-million and $4-million.
Johnson and Booker, both entering their fourth pro seasons, are coming off career years - Johnson catching 80 passes for 1,097 yards and nine touchdowns, and Booker making 100 catches for 1,071 yards and 8 touchdowns.
The numbers are similar. They are similar heights and weights. Johnson might be more important, however, to the Browns offense. He is without question Tim Couch's favorite target.
So, why are the Browns, a franchise that often brags about being "overly generous" to its players, unwilling to pay their most productive offensive weapon?
"You tell me," Johnson said.
Last year, Johnson had to deal with rumors circulating about potential trades, first to the Eagles, then to the Chiefs and Saints. The difference in this year's rumor is Johnson's current contract status. He is beginning the final season of the four-year deal he signed when he first entered the league. He is on the verge of becoming a free agent for the first time.
"I want to know I'm part of the future here," Johnson said. "Considering what happened last year at this time. You don't know where you are going to be at. You have one year left in your contract. You have a family and you want to know where you are going to be for the next four or five years.
"When you have a family, it is more important than football. I love Cleveland. I have a lot of history here in Cleveland. A lot of things went positive for me in these first few years. Yes, we didn't win too many games, but the relationships that you build, you want those to continue. I have one year left on my deal. Am I going to be here? I don't know. Am I going to be somewhere else? I don't know."
Watching linebacker Jamir Miller tear his Achilles tendon in last week's preseason opener in Minnesota reminded Johnson of how fragile a career in the NFL can be and just how important is to secure guaranteed money while you can. Similar to Johnson, Miller was hoping to renegotiate his contract for more money before he went down.
"It definitely scares me," said Johnson. "You see an injury like that happen to your best defensive player. You see a guy go down like that and you definitely want to secure yourself financially. We love Jamir, and to see a guy go down when nobody touch him, that's pretty freaky and it definitely scares you."
The Browns could be sending Johnson a message during the preseason. While Couch has relied on Johnson as his main target in each of their first three years together, the Browns have been encouraging the quarterback to rely more on his other receivers. In last week's preseason game, Couch threw in Johnson's direction just once. The week before in a scrimmage with the Buffalo Bills, Johnson caught just one pass for 2 yards.
That's not much work for a receiver who has 207 catches for 2,752 yards and 17 touchdowns while starting every game since the Browns returned to the NFL in 1999. Those totals include 41 more catches, five touchdowns and almost 1,000 more yards than Booker accumulated in the same amount of time.
Johnson does not think the lack of work in the preseason is an issue. Should he remain in Cleveland, he is confident he will be Couch's main target.
"As long as I'm in the huddle with No. 2, he's going to throw me the ball," said Johnson. "That's the bottom line, no matter how you cut the cake ... Once the real bullets start flying and a play needs to be made ... No. 2 knows. That's just my guy. If a play needs to be made, he's going to bring it to No. 85.
"If I'm here, I'm going to play well. If I'm not here, I'm going to play well."
According to Johnson, Condon is finding other teams who are interested in the fourth-year receiver.
"It's good to know some teams want you out there," Johnson said.