David Njoku seems to have settled into his role with the Cleveland Browns, although the former first round pick continues to find his name involved in trade speculation.
The latest proposed trade via Bleacher Report has David Njoku landing in Jacksonville for the modest return of a fifth-round pick. The premise is that Njoku would be expendable with Cleveland already paying a hefty salary to Austin Hooper — who was signed last offseason — and second-year tight end Harrison Bryant.
If Bryant progresses quickly, the Browns may view Njoku as expendable before the trade deadline. The Jacksonville Jaguars, who are looking to develop No. 1 pick Trevor Lawrence, should be thrilled to add a weapon like Njoku.
Jacksonville could get a starting-caliber tight end, while Cleveland gets late-round compensation for a player who may not be in its long-term plans.
Njoku is an athletic freak and a dangerous weapon in the passing game. However, he’s coming off a 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 in Kevin Stefanski’s offense. His pass-blocking graded out at 76.5 on Pro Football Focus, higher than Hooper (59.3) and Bryant (68.8).
Njoku Sees Long-Term Future in Cleveland
Njoku has worked his way back into the good graces of the Browns after a tough year where he demanded a trade and tumbled down the depth chart behind Bryant and Hooper. He recently fired super-agent Drew Rosenhaus and went back to his former agent, Malki Kawa of First Round Management. Njoku is in the last year of his contract but has been clear that he sees a long-term future in Cleveland.
“I’ve been here four years knocking on five, I don’t really know anything different, so I’d like to stay here,” Njoku told reporters. “We’re going to leave last year in the past but what I can say is: I’m in a way positive mindset, a lot more positive this year. Just playing for myself, playing for my teammates, playing for the team—it’s a lot easier to work hard that way.”
Njoku had a strong camp and head coach Kevin Stefanski was very complimentary of his fifth-year tight end.
“Dave works really hard on his craft. It shows up in his run blocking, his pass blocking, his route running and his catching. I think he is an example of a guy that has been willing to work on his craft, and I think he is getting better,” Stefanski told reporters. “Some of those tight ends I have been around over the years, just their sheer size, they are always open. You just have to go vertically up to go get the ball where you do not have to create separation horizontally in a lot of cases. Dave and (TE Austin Hooper) Hoop, our guys, I think they are very friendly targets for the quarterback.”
Price Tag Could Lead to Browns Making Move
While all seems good between the Browns and Njoku, he’ll be paid just over $6 million next season, which is expensive for a backup — or even third-string — tight end. If the Browns are uncertain that they can get a long-term deal done with Njoku to keep him in Cleveland, they might look to move him at the deadline and get some compensation back.
Browns general manager Andrew Berry has been open that he’ll explore trade situations for just about any player on the roster and Njoku is no exception. Cleveland has to think about the future with extensions for players such Baker Mayfield, Denzel Ward and guard Wyatt Teller coming up.