Browns Starter David Njoku Reacts to New Tight End Signing

David Njoku

Getty Images Browns tight end David Njoku.

The Cleveland Browns have a new tight end in the mix and David Njoku is excited to see how he can contribute.

The Browns made it official and brought in former Steelers, Lions and Bears tight end Jesse James on Sunday, signing him after hosting him for a workout earlier in the week. He’ll join Njoku and Harrison Bryant on the active roster and they’re excited to have him.

“I remember seeing him my rookie year when he was in Pittsburgh,” Njoku told reporters on September 5. “He is a great talent so I am excited that he is with us.”

James is a solid fit for the third tight end role with the Browns. While he was not with a team during training camp but has a solid resume. He started 36 games for the Steelers from 2015-18, notching 120 catches for 1,189 yards and nine touchdowns.

After playing out his rookie deal in Pittsburgh, James went on to ink a four-year, $22.6 million deal with the Lions in 2019 but was released after two uneventful seasons. He notched just 30 catches for 271 yards and two touchdowns while in Detroit. He spent last season with the Bears, starting nine games but catching just seven balls.

James Will Be Relied on as Both Blocker and Pass-Catcher

The Browns have led the league in 13-personnel usage — three tight ends, one running back — in each of the last two seasons, so having three useable tight ends available is key for Cleveland.

James is far from a pure blocking tight end but he has a big frame at 6-foot-7, 261 pounds. He has been respectable at both run and pass blocking during his career, especially early on with the Steelers. The Browns expect him to be used in both blocking and pass-catching situations as the primary backup.

“I think with his role, he has to be able to do both because you really are a backup to Dave and Harrison,” Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski said. “Obviously, there are some moments all three of them could be out there together potentially. Really, it depends on what is needed for that game.”

David Njoku Primed for Big Year in Starting Role

Njoku has been through some adversity in Cleveland, even requesting a trade when he was bumped to No. 3 on the depth chart. But Njoku overcame his struggles, improved his game and is now primed for a big year.

“He has done a really nice job,” Stefanski said of Njoku. “Had a lot of good conversations with David. I think he is excited about it. We are going to be putting a lot on his plate from a physical standpoint and a mental standpoint, and I think he is ready for the challenge.”

Njoku signed a 4-year, $56.75 million contract extension this offseason, making him one of the higher paid players at his position. With his future secured, Njoku now has an opportunity to reach new heights in an increased role.

“I think you make an investment in the player and the person so I think from his perspective, he knows this is a place that believes in him,” Stefanski said. “I don’t get the sense that is something that has held him back in any way. I think he is just excited about the opportunity.”

Njoku and the Browns open the season on September 11 against the Panthers.


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