David Njoku wants out from the Cleveland Browns organization, so the question is what the team can get in return for their former first-round pick.
Njoku made his desires known on Friday through a statement from his agent Drew Rosenhaus to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
“Browns TE David Njoku and his agent Drew Rosenhaus asked today for the team to trade him,” Schefter said in a tweet. “The Browns told Njoku they would like to keep him, but Rosenhaus told them he’s intent on a trade. They want a trade before training camp.”
Rosenhaus told Schefter: “It is in David’s best interest to find a new team at this time.”
The timeline put in place by Njoku asks for a fairly quick trade, with training camp taking place later this month if all goes as planned. So what could the Browns get back if they do have a change of heart and decide to send Njoku packing?
The Browns would be looking at likely a fourth or fifth round pick in return, according to well-connected ESPN NFL reporter Jeremy Fowler.
The Browns have known for about a year that David Njoku was unhappy in Cleveland and would welcome a trade, I’m told. They were not blindsided by this. Early predictions from sources with other teams is Njoku might be worth a 4th or 5th round pick.
— Jeremy Fowler (@JFowlerESPN) July 4, 2020
Njoku is under contract for two more years, with the Browns executing his fifth-year option this offseason.
Browns Not Looking to Move David Njoku: Report
Cleveland.com Browns insider Mary Kay Cabot reiterated that the team is not looking to deal Njoku and would only do so if the return was unbelievable.
“Browns GM Andrew Berry doesn’t want to trade Njoku, and therefore, he won’t just give him away,” Cabot wrote in her Q&A column. “The only way he’ll trade him is if someone makes him an offer he can’t refuse. I’m sure he’d consider a first-round pick for the 2017 No. 29 overall pick, but it’s doubtful he’ll get it.”
In short, a first-round price tag is wildly unrealistic. Recent tight end trades have usually fetched fourth-round picks or worse. One trade of note lately was the Patriots sending “retired” tight end Rob Gronkowski to the Buccaneers for a fourth-round pick, although there were extenuating circumstances involved.
The Falcons recently traded for Ravens tight end Hayden Hurst — a first-round pick in 2018 — for a second and fifth, but gave up a fourth in return. The Falcons pulled the trigger after losing their two-time Pro Bowl tight end Austin Hooper to the Browns in free agency.
🏈Atlanta gets: Tight end Hayden Hurst and Ravens’ 2020 4th-round pick.
🏈Baltimore gets: Falcons’ 2020 2nd-round pick and Falcons 2020 5th-round pick.
As it turns out, the Falcons’ fifth-round pick already has been sent to Jacksonville for Calais Campbell.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 16, 2020
The most notable tight end trade possibly of all-time was when the Seahawks sent a first-round pick and Pro Bowl center Max Unger to the Saints for All-Pro TE Jimmy Graham.
Trading David Njoku Lose-Lose Situation for Browns
Njoku has been a model citizen since the new regime of general manager Andrew Berry and head coach Kevin Stefanski took over in Cleveland. He’s said all the right things and even attended Baker Mayfield’s practice sessions in Texas in May.
Njoku recently wrote that he was looking forward to starting with a clean slate.
“I gotta admit I appreciate what last year taught me,” Njoku recently wrote on Twitter. “A lot of adversity was added to the plate but I’m so thankful I went through it. Clean slate. I’m ready.”
I gotta admit I appreciate what last year taught me. A lot of adversity was added to the plate but I’m so thankful I went through it. Clean slate.. I’m ready.
— Chief David Njoku (@David_Njoku80) June 8, 2020
On top of that, the Browns could use Njoku even more than in years past. Stefanski runs a tight end heavy offensive system, so even with Njoku sliding into the second spot on the depth chart behind high-priced free agent Hooper, he’d see plenty of playing time. Last season when Stefanski called the plays in Minnesota, he used multiple tight ends a league-high 57 percent of the time (h/t ESPN’s Jake Trotter).
Keep in mind, Kevin Stefanski used multiple TEs 57% of the time last year, highest rate in the NFL. Should the Browns jettison Njoku, TE is going to be a position to watch, even with Austin Hooper and 4th round pick Harrison Bryant on board
— Jake Trotter (@Jake_Trotter) July 3, 2020
What doesn’t help the trade talks is that Njoku is coming off a dismal season where he caught just five balls for 41 yards. A large part of the issue for Njoku was a broken wrist he suffered in Week 2 against the Jets, but he was not impressive after returning and was a healthy scratch two of the final three games.
However, if a team is willing to take the chance on Njoku, he has upside. During his second season, Njoku started to pay off for his first-round price, notching 56 catches for 639 yards and four touchdowns.