David Njoku will be a free agent for the first time this offseason, but the Cleveland Browns tight end has no plans to change teams.
Njoku has been fairly adamant about wanting to stay in Cleveland and reiterated that during his exit interview with reporters on Monday from the team’s facility.
“I love it here to the core,” Njoku told reporters on Monday, January 10. “I honestly want to be here for the rest of my career.”
Njoku was a first-round pick of the Browns in 2017 and has an uneven career in Cleveland. He totalled more than 1,000 yards and eight touchdowns through his first two seasons, but then saw his production fall off a cliff under Freddie Kitchens due to injuries and lack of snaps. He missed more than half the season with injury, notched just five catches for 41 yards and started the next season by demanding a trade, which the new regime of GM Andrew Berry and head coach Kevin Stefanski did not grant. While his production wasn’t off the charts, Njoku worked on his craft, becoming a better blocker and embracing his role.
“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.”
Refreshed Mindset Paid Off for David Njoku
It paid off this season, with Njoku becoming a larger part of the offense. He finished with the third-most receiving yards among Browns players, with 475 yards on 36 receptions — a solid 13.2 average. He also led 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 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.”
As far as Njoku returning, it’ll come down to numbers and what kind of discount he’s willing to take. The Browns are already paying Austin Hooper, who signed a four-year, $42 million deal last offseason.
Njoku Said Browns Have Confidence in Baker Mayfield
As was the theme during Monday’s media sessions, Njoku expressed confidence in quarterback Baker Mayfield.
“We have all the confidence in Baker as well as any quarterback that steps foot — Case got us a victory this past weekend — so we have all the confidence in whoever we put out there and it’s our job as players to handle business,” Njoku said.
Mayfield’s long-term future in Cleveland is still a debate but he’s shown good chemistry with Njoku — one of the few pieces of the roster who has been by his side since his rookie season.