Not everyone is a big fan of Cleveland Browns tight end David Njoku, who signed a hefty extension with the team last offseason.
Njoku has had quite the ride with the Browns since being selected in the first round of the 2017 draft. The former Miami standout has caught 206 passes for 2,382 yards and 19 touchdowns since landing in Cleveland but his time with the team has also included a trade request, getting buried on the depth chart and various injuries.
Njoku was named the most overrated tight end in the NFL by Bleacher Report, with his contract being a major reason why.
“Some mysteries just defy explanation. There are the stone heads on Easter Island. The disappearance of the Roanoke colony in 1590. And what the heck possessed the Cleveland Browns to give tight end David Njoku a contract extension that averaged nearly $14 million a season,” B/R’s Gary Davenport wrote.
Njoku has never made a Pro Bowl but has shown steady improvement, both as a pass-catcher — which is his forte — and as a blocker. Despite missing three games last season, Njoku set career-highs in receptions (58) and recorded 628 yards to go with four touchdowns. Those are solid numbers but not a resume that dictates the money he’s being paid, per Davenport.
“Njoku isn’t a bad tight end. But he isn’t a great one, either—and the fact that his contract ranks among the highest at his position just makes no sense,” he wrote.
David Njoku Bullish on Partnership With Browns QB Deshaun Watson
Njoku played just six games with Deshaun Watson as his quarterback last season but believes that their partnership can look like what Patrick Mahomes and Travis Kelce have with the Kansas City Chiefs. Considering that’s probably the most prolific QB-TE connection in the league, it’s a high bar Njoku is setting.
“First off, those two are legendary, you know what I mean?” Njoku said late last season. “All the kudos to them, Patrick and Trav and, yeah, I feel like we can definitely do things similar to that as well. It’s only a matter of time, so I’m very excited.”
Njoku earned his extension by working to be a more well-rounded tight end. He entered the league primarily as an athletic pass-catcher but impressed the coaching staff with his approach.
“I just think he really wants to be really good. That was from the first conversations I had with him, he just wanted to be good, he wanted to be coached, he wants more opportunities and he wants to be on the field more,” Browns tight ends coach TC McCartney said last season. “All of those things have happened, and it has been good for him.”
Browns Have Added Jordan Akins To the Mix
The Browns added tight end Jordan Akins this offseason in free agency, reuniting him with Watson, who he caught passes from in Houston. The two have some built-in chemistry, which Akins is looking forward to tapping into.
“I want to pick up where we left off in Houston. Deshaun, we had great chemistry and I like the way he plays a game,” Akins told reporters at OTAs on May 24. “The play is always alive when he’s on the field. And I love to play with a quarterback like that.”
The addition of Akins puts some pressure on Harrison Bryant to step up. Bryant caught 31 passes for 239 yards and 12 touchdowns last season but only found the end zone once. He played on 48 percent of the offensive snaps, a number that was helped by Njoku missing three games.
Bryant’s name has been brought up in trade rumors and he’ll have to earn his reps this season.