Nov 26, 2020; Detroit, Michigan, USA; Houston Texans running back Duke Johnson (25) runs the ball during the second quarter against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Texans release RB Duke Johnson

Running back Duke Johnson was released by the Houston Texans on Friday.

According to multiple reports, Johnson was let go by the Texans as the team tries to dodge the full $5.025 million salary cap hit for 2021, the final year on his three-year deal with the team.

Johnson, 27, signed a three-year, $15.6 million deal in 2018 after four seasons with the Cleveland Browns.

In 2021, he was due a salary of $4,650,000 with a roster bonus of $275,000 and a workout bonus of $100,000, according to spotrac.

The makeup of the Houston backfield is in flux with quarterback Deshaun Watson demanding a trade. Running back has been a position of extreme turnover in recent years with Lamar Miller, Alfred Blue, David Johnson and Duke Johnson among the players the franchise turned to over the past three seasons.

David Johnson, acquired from the Arizona Cardinals in the DeAndre Hopkins trade in 2020, turns 30 in December. He’s in the final year of a three-year, $39 million deal he signed with the Cardinals and has a cap hit of $8.812 million, according to spotrac.

–Field Level Media

Sep 20, 2020; Houston, Texas, USA; Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson (8) rolls out of the pocket with the ball as Houston Texans outside linebacker Whitney Mercilus (59) applies defensive pressure during the second quarter at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Texans LB Mercilus placed on reserve/COVID-19 list

The Houston Texans placed linebacker Whitney Mercilus on the reserve/COVID-19 list on Friday and ruled out running back Duke Johnson for this weekend’s game against the visiting Cincinnati Bengals.

Mercilus, 30, is not eligible to play in Sunday’s game. He has recorded 21 tackles and four sacks in 13 games (12 starts) this season.

Johnson, who also sat out Houston’s 27-20 loss to Indianapolis on Sunday, did not participate in practice all week while nursing a neck injury.

David Johnson likely will handle the majority of the rushing duties on Sunday for the Texans (4-10). He led the team with eight carries and 27 yards versus the Colts.

Cornerback Phillip Gaines was a limited participant all week with a knee injury. He is listed as questionable to face the Bengals (3-10-1).

–Field Level Media

Dec 6, 2020; Houston, Texas, USA; Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Michael Pittman (11) makes a reception as Houston Texans cornerback Phillip Gaines (29) attempts to make a tackle during the second quarter at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Texans CB Gaines, three others ruled out vs. Colts

Cornerback Phillip Gaines was one of four Houston Texans players ruled out for Sunday’s game against the Indianapolis Colts, the team announced.

In addition to Gaines (knee), the Texans declared Saturday that running backs Duke Johnson (neck), RB C.J. Prosise (ankle) and CB John Reid (neck) will not travel with the team to Indianapolis.

Gaines, 29, will miss his second straight game with the injury. He also sat out Houston’s 36-7 loss to Chicago on Sunday.

Gaines has recorded 24 tackles in 12 games this season for the Texans (4-9).

Johnson, 27, has rushed 77 times for 235 yards with one touchdown in 11 games in 2020.

Prosise, 26, has 10 carries for 19 yards in 10 games this season.

Reid, 24, has nine tackles in 11 games this season.

–Field Level Media

Oct 4, 2020; Houston, Texas, USA; Houston Texans running back David Johnson (31) reacts after fumbling the ball against the Minnesota Vikings on a play during the fourth quarter at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Texans activate RB David Johnson (concussion) from IR

The Houston Texans activated running back David Johnson from injured reserve, the team announced Saturday.

Johnson has been sidelined since sustaining a concussion following a hit from linebacker Myles Jack in the Texans’ 27-25 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars on Nov. 8.

In eight games this season, Johnson leads the Texans in carries (103), rushing yards (408) and rushing touchdowns (three).

Johnson, 28, also has caught 16 passes for 161 yards and a touchdown.

Running back Duke Johnson has rushed for 106 yards on 33 carries in his absence. He also has six receptions for 63 yards and a touchdown in that span.

Houston also activated linebacker Kyle Emanuel from injured reserve on Saturday. Emanuel, 29, has three tackles in three games this season with the Texans and Las Vegas Raiders.

Also on Saturday, Houston elevated wide receivers Chad Hansen and Steven Mitchell Jr. from the practice squad to the active roster and placed fullback Cullen Gillaspia on the reserve/COVID-19 list.

–Field Level Media