The Cleveland Browns are team-building for the future, and one of their top receiving targets is a big part of an even bigger picture.
“Here is a real update, amidst this April Fool’s joke: The #Browns and TE David Njoku are in active talks on an extension, sources say, and there is confidence it can get done by the July 15 deadline,” Rapoport tweeted on the morning of April 1. “Now back to ignoring everything (besides this) online today.”
Rapoport’s mention of an April Fool’s joke was a reference to a tweet by Njoku Friday morning, in which he claimed he was actively pursuing a trade out of Cleveland.
“Good morning all, I have instructed my agent @malkikawa to seek a trade,” Njoku wrote. “I want my fans to know first…”
Rapoport was apparently fooled by Njoku’s initial tweet, though later retracted his erroneous report and broke the news that the tight end and his team are currently talking a long-term deal.
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Njoku Currently Inked on One-Year Franchise Tag
If Cleveland and Njoku can’t get a deal done by mid-July, he will still play for the Browns in 2022.
General manager Andrew Berry chose to use the team’s franchise tag option to lock Njoku up for next season at a one-year salary of approximately $10.9 million. The NFL Network reported on Monday, March 7, that the use of the tag was a way to keep the tight end off of the open market while the two sides negotiated a deal, meaning that an extension has been in the works now for nearly a month.
According to that same March 7 report, NFL insider Tom Pelissero said the Browns were offering Njoku in the neighborhood of $13 million annually, which would make him one of the top-five paid tight ends in the entire league.
Cleveland drafted Njoku, now 25 years old, in 2017 out of the University of Miami. He has appeared in 65 games over the course of his five-year NFL career, starting 36 of those. Njoku has amassed 1,754 yards on 148 catches, including 15 touchdowns, during that time.
Njoku Top TE on Browns’ Roster Following Release of Austin Hooper
That Njoku is Cleveland’s preferred long-term solution at tight end comes as something of an upset after the money the team spent to acquire Austin Hooper in 2020.
At the time, Hooper was coming off of back-to-back Pro Bowl selections in his third and fourth years with the Atlanta Falcons. Hooper signed a four-year deal worth $42 million with the Browns that offseason but ultimately proved both a disappointment and an over-pay on Cleveland’s part.
Hooper, 27, put together a two-season run of 84 catches for 770 yards and seven touchdowns. In his final year with the Falcons, the tight end registered 75 catches for 787 yards and six touchdowns, per Pro Football Reference.
The Browns chose to release Hooper on March 22 in a move to clear cap space for what has proven to be an expensive and exciting offseason in Cleveland up to this point.