The Cleveland Browns have been clear that they’ll be aggressive to bring in top talent under general manager Andrew Berry and a move proposed by an ESPN analyst involving former first-round pick David Njoku would be exactly that.
The trade put forward by ESPN Insider Field Yates has the Browns sending Njoku and a 2021 second-round pick to Jacksonville for disgruntled pass-rusher Yannick Ngakoue.
“For Cleveland, the allure is straightforward,” Yates wrote. “Ngakoue has at least 8.0 sacks in each of his four pro seasons. He’s a ball hunter who disrupts quarterbacks, something the team is looking for to play opposite Myles Garrett.”
Jacksonville could utilize Njoku for his athleticism in the passing game, beefing up the tight end position in the Jay Gruden-led offense. Tyler Eifert and Josh Oliver are expected to be the top options next season for the Jags at tight end.
Price Tag Would Likely Hold up Deal for Yannick Ngakoue
NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero reported last summer that Jacksonville offered Ngakoue a short-term deal worth $19 million annually, but those negotiations fell apart. The franchise tag carries a price tag $17.8 million for next season, but Ngakoue is one of the few players left not to sign a tag. Yates points out he’ll likely pull in a $20 million salary annually on a new deal if he gets one.
Ngakoue, a former third-round pick, notched 37.5 sacks over his first four seasons. He made the Pro Bowl in 2017, collecting 12 sacks. At just 25 years old, Ngakoue is in his prime to get a big-money deal.
The Browns currently have Olivier Vernon on the roster opposite Garrett, but the oft-injured pass-rusher’s $15.25 million salary is not guaranteed until a week before the regular season, per Terry Pluto cleveland.com.
Cleveland has actively pursued prized free agent Jadeveon Clowney, but have not made much progress after reportedly offering him a deal worth $15 million per year. Clowney suffered a core muscle injury in Week 10 last season with Seattle, which he had surgery on this offseason. It slowed his production and he played in 13 games — starting 11 — notching just three sacks and 31 tackles. Those numbers have hurt Clowney in negotiations for a long-term mega-deal, but he’s not in a rush to sign.
Browns Have Expressed Confidence in David Njoku After Bad Year
Njoku suffered a fractured wrist in Week 2 last season and he didn’t make it back into the lineup in Week 14. However, a dropped a ball that turned into an interception played a part in him being a healthy scratch the next two weeks and he was firmly in former head coach Freddie Kitchen’s dog house.
Njoku suited up for the Browns final game of the season, but played just four snaps. Njoku had just five catches for 41 yards and one touchdown last season. He recently reflected on those struggles.
Despite his struggles last season, the Browns decided to pick up Njoku’s option for a fifth-year, meaning he has at least two more seasons left in Cleveland (or somewhere else if they trade him). The team is hoping that they can see the Njoku that showed major upside during his second season, when he notched 56 catches for 639 yards and four touchdowns.
“He is going to add to that tight end room,” Browns offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt said in a Zoom call this offseason. “There will be times we are out there with three tight end sets – that is part of this system – and to have him with the ability he has both athletically to play in line or get him out in space and get some matchup issues with safeties and linebackers covering him, I am excited to see what he has to offer.”