It was reported by Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com that Njoku was still seeking a trade after failing to be dealt before the season. But the former first-round pick appeared to dispute that he wants out — kind of.
“I did not say anything to Mary Kay about a trade request,” Njoku wrote on Twitter.
Cabot did expand on her report after reposting the story saying: “Not disgruntled, no animosity, no demands. Just wants to play. Market might not be there [though].”
That’s not to say the report is wrong. As a connected veteran reporter, Cabot could have talked to a variety of sources that were familiar with the situation. It didn’t have to come directly from Njoku’s mouth, but it’s at least good to know he wasn’t the primary source for the report.
Njoku demanded a trade before summer after hiring Drew Rosenhaus as his agent, but the Browns held firm that they did not want to deal him if they were not getting the right compensation back for the former first-round pick.
David Njoku Still Playing Significant Reps for Browns
Njoku is third on the depth chart, but out-snapped rookie Harrison Bryant 23-21 during the loss to the Steelers. Njoku caught just one pass for six yards on a day where the offense struggled as a whole.
Starting tight end Austin Hooper — the Browns big-money offseason free-agent acquisition — has just 12 catches for 96 yards and one touchdown this season.
Njoku has five catches for 63 yards and one touchdown this year. He suffered a knee injury in the Browns opener and landed on the IR, but has played the last two weeks.
There would no doubt be teams willing to add Njoku for his upside as a pass-catching tight end, but it would depend on the price. The Browns have holes to fill on the defensive side of the ball and would likely want a mid-round pick for Njoku.
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 traded for Ravens tight end Hayden Hurst this offseason — a first-round pick in 2018 — for a second and fifth, but gave up a fourth in return. The Bears got a sixth-round pick back for backup TE Adam Shaheen in July.
Report: Browns Not Actively Shopping David Njoku
The Browns have continued to stick by their guns when it comes to Njoku, and NFL insider Tom Pelissero said the team is not actively shopping their tight end.
“At this point, the Browns are not actively shopping David Njoku,” Pelissero said on NFL Network. “It’s clear they value him, picking up his fifth-year option which is worth a little over $6 million for 2021. You go back to that trade request he made during the summer and the way things have played out for him this season. He did have an injury that sidelined him for a few weeks, but he’s played in three games, only has seven targets, five catches and one touchdown. As talented as he is, it’s obvious he may feel there is somewhere else where he can get on the field and produce.”
Pelissero said the question would be if the Browns are willing to take a mid-round pick for Njoku or simply keep him as a piece of their tight-end heavy offense for this year and possibly next.