David Njoku responded to a tweet about returning to the Cleveland Browns on Monday, a possible hint that a move could be imminent.
Njoku just played out the fifth and final year of his rookie deal and can become an unrestricted free agent if a deal is not reached with the Browns before March 14. Njoku was clear during the year that he wants to stay in Cleveland and his recent social media activity shows he still feels that way.
Njoku retweeted a message that read: “Dear Browns, it’s a great day to sign THE CHIEF David Njoku. Love, just about everyone.” The video attached to the message showed Njoku doing his patented Chief Spike celebration.
Browns Willing to Buck up for Njoku
The latest on Njoku came form Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com, who reported on Sunday that the Browns are willing to pay “double-digit millions” to keep Njoku on board. Per Cabot:
The Browns definitely want him back, and are prepared to pay him the double-digit millions he’ll get on the open market. They’ve been talking to his agents for months, and are poised to try to get a deal done before or during the legal tampering period March 14-16.
While it’s clear the Browns are willing to buck up to keep Njoku, that number could simply be the franchise tag, which is $10.834 million for tight ends next season. That number is higher than the $6.7 million annual value he’s projected to wrangle in as a free agent, per Spotrac.
Njoku Sent Clear Message on Browns Future
Njoku has not held back when asked about his future, making it very clear he wants to remain in Cleveland.
“I honestly want to be here for the rest of my career, so my agent and the Browns are still in talks, we’re still negotiating, figuring out what we can do, and we’ll go from there,” Njoku said during his exit interview on January 10.
That wasn’t always the case, with Njoku demanding a trade prior to the 2020 season, which general manager Andrew Berry swiftly rejected. The former first-round pick saw himself buried on the depth chart, with the Browns paying a hefty sum for free agent tight end Austin Hooper (four years, $42 million) and drafted Harrison Bryant in the fourth round. But two seasons later, Njoku has worked himself back into the good graces of the team, particularly head coach Kevin Stefanski, who loves his tight ends.
“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.”
If the Browns decide to keep Njoku, Hooper could end up being the casualty. The former Pro Bowler has been a disappointment since signing his hefty deal and the Browns could save around $9.5 million in cap space if they cut him post-June 1.