David Njoku played well in the Cleveland Browns opener but the former first-round pick still finds his name floating around in trade rumors.
Njoku was recently placed on Bleacher Report’s “trade block big board,” which features 15 players most likely to be dealt. Others on the list include Patriots wide receiver N’Keal Harry, Saints receiver Michael Thomas and Cowboys linebacker Jaylon Smith.
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.”
However, the rumors remain, in part due to Njoku’s contract situation. He’s currently playing on his fifth-year option and will be a free agent at the end of the season if a long-term deal is not reached. With the Browns already tied into a hefty salary for Austin Hooper, it’s unlikely the team would ink Njoku to a market-value deal, especially if he has a good season. So the Browns could look to deal their second-string tight end before the deadline and get some value.
Njoku Led Browns in Receiving in Week 1
Njoku entered the 2021 season after a down year where he notched just 19 catches for 213 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He added five catches for 66 yards in the postseason and improved as a blocker, which made him useful beyond catching the ball. His pass-blocking graded out at 76.5 on Pro Football Focus, higher than Hooper (59.3) and Bryant (68.8).
Njoku came out of the gates on fire during Week 1, running the most routes among the Browns three tight ends and leading the team in receiving yards. The hyper-athletic tight end caught three balls for 76 yards. When it came to snaps, Hooper received 38, Njoku 35 and Harrison Bryant got 18.
“David is a big player. He has speed at that size where it allows him to create separation, but even if he does not create separation, I think with our tight ends, they can create vertical separation with how they can go get the ball,” Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski said.
Njoku Walking Mismatch for Browns Offense
Baker Mayfield also had good things to say about Njoku, showering his tight end with complements.
“He is a guy who creates mismatch problems. The fact that he is such a big guy and can run like he does, they have to decide whether they are going to put a big guy on him to try and bring a physical presence or bring a speed guy. It is a difference-maker for us,” Mayfield said. “It is also one of those things for us to key in on and how teams try to defend us. We have to realize that David is one of those special guys who we can get a lot of tips off of.”
Njoku and the Browns will have another chance for a big offensive showing against the Texans this week as a double-digit favorite at home.