The Browns are staying true to their stated goal of keeping David Njoku in the fold. Per a team announcement, they have placed the franchise tag on the tight end.
[Related: Browns Want To Keep David Njoku]
One week ago, it was reported that Cleveland was intent on making a sizeable commitment to the 25-year-old. Specifically, a deal paying him eight figures per season on average was said to be what the team is willing to offer. That came as a surprise to many, mainly because of the presence of Austin Hooper and his contract. The former Falcon signed a then record-breaking deal for tight ends, which keeps him on the books in Cleveland until 2024.
For each of the next two seasons, Hooper will carry a cap hit of $13.25MM. If he plays on the tag, Njoku will make $10.8MM, giving the Browns an expensive tandem at the position, especially considering their combined production. In 2021, the pair totalled 820 receiving yards and seven touchdowns. Nevertheless, NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport confirms that the team is treating the tag as simply a means of buying time for a long-term extension (Twitter link).
A first round pick in 2017, Njoku’s best season came one year later, when he posted 56 catches for 639 yards and four majors. Despite not putting up eye-popping numbers during his five seasons with the team, he has ultimately shown a willingness to stick around, in spite of the investment made in Hooper. For at least one more campaign, he will be able to do just that.
The team also announced they have tendered three exclusive rights free agents: wide receiver Ja’Marcus Bradley, as well as offensive linemen Michael Dunn and Blake Hance.
32 comments on “Browns Place Franchise Tag On David Njoku”
Ever known a couple where both people always seem on the verge of breaking up with the other, but neither person ever leaves? Njoku and the Browns remind me of one of those couples.
It’s like the Browns feel obligated to overpay Njoku because he ultimately decided to stick around. That’s great business if you have unlimited funds, or no salary cap, or no Austin Hooper. It’s not so much good business otherwise.
There are worse bets than one year at $10ish mil to see if he can take another big step, especially since he’ll get more guaranteed money than that on the open market, but it’s a weird move with their roster.
Fair point and agree on all counts. I’m not certain that he would get more guarantees elsewhere but I’ve been surprised at some teams’ willingness to overpay many times before. You hit the nail on the head though: for the Browns roster this is really odd. I don’t recall Njoku even being all that great of a blocker. They love Bryant but he’s a glorified wide receiver.
His PFF run blocking grade last season was 64.1, good for 23rd in the league, and his PFF pass blocking grade was 72.4, which was 16th. Both are solid considering how many of the guys ahead of him played much, much less, and are pretty much ONLY blockers (think Eric Saubert or Charlie Woerner). He’s developed into a good blocker, so he’s not someone like Gesicki, who’s really not a tight end in any traditional sense.
Why? Seems like a weird use of the tag on a guy that is okay but not great
this is the Browns we’re talking about
“639 yards and four majors.” does that equal 2 generals and and an extra captain? lol
The pair would combine to earn 24mil and last season put up 820 yards and 7 touch downs.
Sounds like roughly what the cowboys pay and get from Amari Cooper.
Man, that’s a solid argument for paying Cooper. If only the Browns needed a number one receiver and Cooper were on the market.
I sense sarcasm… 😉
Solid argument for paying Cooper or keeping Schultz who also put up 800 yards and a bunch of TDs???
Don’t get me wrong, I like Schultz for what he is, but he put up similar raw stats to Cooper in far and away his best year and Cooper’s worst year in a long time. Schultz is worth a franchise tag. In a smarter world, they never gave Zeke that contract and could keep Cooper and Schultz both.
Just plain stupid. Top 5 money for a TE likely around 20th in the league … so many better options ….
Ertz, Kittle, Kelce , Gesiki , Hockenson, Henry, Jonu Smith, Knox, Friermuth, Godherd, Gronk, Pitts, Fant,… just to name a few but man what an over pay
In fairness, look at that list. Most of them are either still on their rookie deal, never sniffed the open market, or nearing the ends of their careers. Gesicki is better, but he’s going to get a whole lot more guaranteed money committed, and I’m not sure I’d want to bet vastly more on him. This is a wonky move, I agree, but young tight ends with any upside and production rarely hit the open market, and when they do, they have warts. Heck, Jared Cook has gotten treated like an upside play into his mid 30s.
Seems like an odd strategy to overpay 2 average TEs in order to get the production of one good one. Guess the Browns have money to burn now that they are riding out the Baker Mayfield contract.
Hooper will be cut, they’ll only take a $1.6 mil cap hit by releasing him.
Read the article closely – Hooper has a $13.25 mil cap hit each of the next two seasons. Based on last season, I’d rather have Njoku than Hooper who seems to have grown stone hands since arriving in C-town. But, the Browns need both plus Bryant since they run so much 2 TE sets.
That’s if they keep him, and they just said yesterday they plan to….ugh. Hopefully they know what they’re doing
Good lord why? You can make a good case that he’s not even the best tight end in his own team (Hooper and/or Harrison Bryant). Just because he has talent and says he wants to stick around doesn’t mean you not only badly overpay him, but spend way too much overall on tight ends.
I mean, as a Steeler fan this makes me happy, but as a football fan it confuses the heck out of me. Poor choice Brownies.
Whyyyyyyyyyyy…..this makes zero sense. Why are you paying 2 TEs top 5 money when the production doesn’t back that pay up?
Browns have such bigger pressing needs than a second/third TE. WR being #1 and 2.
Hooper won’t be on the Browns long, they’ll cut him and only have a $1.6 mil cap hit.
Think I saw if they designate him as post June 1, he will carry a dead cap of 3.5 million a year for the next 3 years. Understand not all signings work out and this one is a failure so far. However, doubling down that NJoku is also worth what they just paid Hooper still makes no sense. Least Hooper showed that value in ATL. Hooper is all hype/projecting at this point.
I meant NJoku is all hype/projecting at the end there.
This makes no sense, team desperately needs WRs, needs to resign Clowney or replace him if they lose him, add youth at DT and find a franchise QB… Don’t understand the direction Browns are going….You need to throw ball to win big in NFL. Nice to have a good running game but need to pass to win. Keeping a blocking first TE makes no sense…
No one would pay him that much on the open market. Dumb move.
He would certainly get more than $10.6 million in guaranteed money on the open market.
As a Steelers fan, I support this move.
Why is literally NO ONE mentioning that Hooper is probably gone? He’s a pretty good bet to be cut, or else they wouldn’t be preparing to pay Njoku.
It’s a lot of money for him, but the Browns believe he still has upside. His career numbers really aren’t that great, but he’s also never been a big part of the offense. Hooper will likely be gone and Bryant is a nice rotational guy but not a starter, so the targets will be there for him and Stefanski clearly loves using tight ends. He’s also still super young (24 I think, without looking it up) and tight end tags are pretty cheap relative to other positions.
That being said, if they DO keep Hooper (like a report that I saw says they will), then this makes much less sense. All things being equal, I’d still prefer Njoku to Hooper.