It’s been a wild few years for David Njoku, who stepped up for the Cleveland Browns this season when not much else went right in the passing game.
After requesting a trade and being buried on the depth chart in 2020, Njoku proved to be the best tight end on the roster this season, outplaying both Austin Hooper and Harrison Bryant.
Njoku enters the final week of the season with the third-most receiving yards among Browns players, with 464 yards on 34 receptions — a solid 13.6 average. He also leads the team in receiving touchdowns with four and his 71-yard touchdown catch and run was the longest of the season for the Browns. His growth has impressed head coach Kevin Stefanski.
“David is a guy over the course of the last couple of seasons who has shown great growth as a player and as a person,” Stefanski told reporters on Friday, January 8. “The way he is playing on the field and the things that we are asking him to do, I think he is doing a really nice job. I think the tape speaks for itself. He has grown as a professional. He is still a young man so he is continuing to grow as a person, as well. I am really pleased with where he is, and I want him to finish strong.”
Njoku Has Said he Wants to Stay to Browns
Njoku is playing on his fifth-year option, which means he’ll be a free agent this offseason. Due to his freak athletic ability, improved blocking and contributions in the passing game, Njoku will likely have suitors and the Browns are already paying Hooper, who signed a four-year, $42 million deal last offseason.
Njoku has been a constant figure in trade rumors going on two seasons now, a situation he brought upon himself when he demanded to be dealt. He’s since moved past that, saying he wants a long-term future in Cleveland.
“What I can say is I am in a way [more] positive mindset, a lot more positive this year. Just playing for myself, playing for my teammates and playing for the team. It is a lot easier to work hard that way,” Njoku told reporters in August. “I’ve been here for four years, knocking on five. I don’t really know anything different. I’d like to stay here.”
Browns Hope Njoku Part of Team Moving Forward
Browns offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt also showed Njoku with praise this week on the eve of the Browns’ final game of the season, noting his improvements in both the pass and run game.
“I like David and the way he played this year. He was productive for us and explosive in the pass game. He is very good at the point of attack in the run game. That is tough to find in tight ends,” Van Pelt said. “We are lucky to have three who can do both of those things. He did it at a high level. I was very proud of his season. He did some good things on both sides in the pass game and the run game. I definitely hope he is a part of us moving forward.”
The question will not only be money but if Njoku might seek a situation where he’s unquestioned atop the depth chart. That situation will likely be out there for him but he’s been clear about his love for Cleveland.