David Njoku is locked in as a key piece of the future for the Cleveland Browns but it was not long ago that the former first-round pick demanded a trade.
After the Browns signed Austin Hooper in 2020, Njoku was looking for a ticket out of town, knowing that his role in the offense was going to be reduced. The Browns turned down his trade request twice — once prior to the season and again at the trade deadline — although everything ultimately ended up working out for both sides.
Last offseason, Njoku signed a four-year contract extension worth $56.75 million, including $28 million guaranteed. Hooper has since moved on and Njoku has established himself as a key part of the Browns’ offense.
Njoku has been fairly quiet on how his previous trade demand played out but opened up about the situation to Bills linebacker Von Miller on “The Von Cast.”
“I was trying to get traded myself but they weren’t trying to trade me, man. It was a rollercoaster,” Njoku said on February 9. “They got Austin Hooper, that’s actually a really close homie of mine. But I was like, ‘You’ve guys got your guys, let me go do my thing somewhere else.’ They were like, ‘Nah, you ain’t going anywhere.'”
Miller didn’t blame the Browns for not dealing Njoku, who is an athletic freak.
“I wouldn’t trade you either… you are fast, you are strong, you can jump,” Miller said. “There is no safety who can cover you one-on-one, no linebacker that can cover you one-on-one, you can block. You do everything.”
Njoku Sees Big-Time Potential With Deshaun Watson
Njoku finished last season with 58 catches for 628 yards and four touchdowns. He was the third busiest pass-catcher for the Browns, despite missing three games.
Njoku showed off a pretty solid connection with Deshaun Watson in their five games together and he can see it reaching some pretty lofty heights, mentioning Kansas City Chiefs duo Patrick Mahomes and Travis Kelce.
“First off, those two are legendary, you know what I mean?” Njoku said in December. “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.”
His play on the field has been much improved but Njoku has also grown as a leader within the Browns locker room. He expressed some significant disappointment after the Browns were eliminated from playoff contention for a second straight season.
“All of the above. All of the above. Going into every year, you always have high hopes and high goals,” Njoku said. “When you don’t reach them, it is upsetting, especially when you work so hard, you see your teammates working really hard and everything. To not get there, it is tough. Just is life. It is what it is.”
Browns’ Offense Could See Shift Next Season
The Browns have utilized multiple tight ends as much as anyone under head coach Kevin Stefanski, although that could begin to shift next season as Cleveland looks to maximize the abilities of Watson.
“I think it will be totally different,” Watson said at the end of the season. “We’ve seen glimpses of what we wanted to do, but I think it’ll be a lot different for sure.”
That might not change a ton for Njoku, who has always been a better pass-catcher than a blocker. Former fourth-round pick Harrison Bryant is next up on the depth chart but the Browns will likely look for another name to add to the mix this offseason.