David Njoku

David Njoku Retracts Trade Request

David Njoku is again committed to playing for the Browns. The fourth-year tight end has retracted his trade request, per agent Drew Rosenhaus (Twitter link via cleveland.com’s Mary Kay Cabot).

The former first-round pick requested a trade almost a month ago. More recently, the ex-Miami Hurricane said he loved Cleveland but cryptically noted the NFL brings “complications.” After some meetings with Browns brass, including GM Andrew Berry, Njoku has recommitted to the team.

Njoku’s dissatisfaction was believed to predate the Browns’ decision to give Austin Hooper a then-tight end-record salary in March. Kevin Stefanski said this week he is eager to work with Njoku, who was drafted two regimes ago. Berry, however, was with the Browns when Sashi Brown selected him.

Despite a disappointing season that resulted in yet another regime change, the Browns return a deep array of skill-position options. While Njoku is on the low end of that group, the Browns picked up his fifth-year option in May. He is under contract through 2021, with manageable salaries of $1.76MM this season and $6MM next year.

The 24-year-old pass-catcher is coming off an injury-marred season. A concussion and a broken wrist sent Njoku to IR in September. He ended up catching just five passes for 41 yards in his third NFL season. He fared much better in 2018, however, hauling in 56 passes for 639 yards and four touchdowns.

Had the Browns kept John Dorsey in place as GM, Njoku may well be out of the picture. But with Berry back in Cleveland, he will have another chance and is on track to work in Stefanski’s two-tight end formations.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC North Notes: Browns, Burrow, Ravens

The Browns have not honored David Njoku‘s trade request. The former first-round pick enters his fourth season in Cleveland, and while Kevin Stefanski said he had not spoken with Njoku in several weeks, the first-year Browns coach noted he is eager to work with him.

My stance hasn’t changed. The organization’s stance hasn’t changed in that we believe in David, excited to work with him,” Stefanski said, via cleveland.com’s Mary Kay Cabot. “I’ll get to finally be in the same room as him this weekend as he is coming in for physicals and then get out on the field with him Monday.”

Njoku has not lived up to his Round 1 billing yet, leading the Browns to give Austin Hooper a tight end-record contract. While Njoku’s unhappiness was reported to predate the team’s Hooper addition, he tweeted that he “loves Cleveland” while noting the game includes “a lot of complications.” Regardless, Njoku is set to earn $1.76MM this season. The Browns picked up his fifth-year option (worth $6MM) but can cut bait on that cost before the 2021 league year.

Here is the latest from the AFC North:

  • Despite the COVID-19 pandemic preventing teams from conducting on-field workouts throughout the offseason, the Browns have not changed their plan at tackle. First-round pick Jedrick Wills will begin his career as Cleveland’s starting left tackle, Stefanski adds. The Alabama product will make the interesting transition from college right tackle to NFL left tackle. Recently signed free agent Jack Conklin, a college left tackle, will continue his NFL right tackle work.
  • The Browns hired former Vikings QBs coach Kevin Rogers as a senior offensive assistant. Rogers was with the Vikings from 2006-10, which doubled as Stefanski’s first five years with the franchise, but has not coached since 2016. Rogers, 68, spent decades at the college level. He worked as the offensive coordinator for Syracuse (1991-98), Notre Dame (1999-2001) and Boston College (2011). His most recent gig was at alma mater William & Mary; that four-year stay ended after the 2016 season.
  • The Ravens will use Jimmy Smith in a matchup-based capacity. They are trying their longtime starting cornerback at safety and in the slot, John Harbaugh said. As of now, there is no plan to permanently move the veteran corner to safety. The Ravens are deep at cornerback, with Marcus Peters, Marlon Humphrey and slot man Tavon Young back in the fold. Young, however, has missed two of the past three full seasons. Harbaugh said the fifth-year corner is back to 100% after a neck injury last summer.
  • Ravens rookie UDFA tight end Jacob Breeland will miss the 2020 season, Harbaugh confirmed. The Oregon product was one of the top contenders for Baltimore’s No. 3 tight end spot, per The Athletic’s Jeff Zrebiec (subscription required).
  • As expected, Joe Burrow‘s rookie year will consist of on-the-job training. The Bengals will not give one of their more experienced QBs the first snaps as their starter in training camp. Burrow will take them, Zac Taylor said, per Marisa Contipelli of Bengals.com (on Twitter). Cincinnati returns 2019 draftee Ryan Finley and agreed to terms with fifth-year quarterback Brandon Allen, who worked with Taylor in Los Angeles.

NFC East Notes: Cowboys, Eagles, Williams

Two players linked to the Cowboys in recent weeks are not in the team’s plans, it appears. Jadeveon Clowney has the Cowboys and Saints at or near the top of his figurative list, but the pass rusher who has been connected to nearly half the league this offseason is off Dallas’ radar, Clarence Hill of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram notes. That also applies to David Njoku, the Browns tight end connected to the Cowboys after his trade request surfaced recently. The Cowboys signed Aldon Smith and have Tyrone Crawford and four recent draft picks joining DeMarcus Lawrence at defensive end. They also are looking likely to carry Dak Prescott‘s $31.4MM cap number on their books this season, limiting funding for a Clowney deal. At tight end, the Cowboys lost Jason Witten but extended Blake Jarwin. Beyond Jarwin, however, the team is fairly thin at this spot.

Here is the latest from the NFC East:

  • One member of the Cowboys’ D-end contingent may not have a chance to supplement Lawrence. The Cowboys have continued to hope for the NFL to reinstate Randy Gregory, but as of Monday, Hill adds that the team has largely given up on this notion. The NFL banned Gregory indefinitely for substance abuse, and although the new CBA’s suspension structure is focused more on PEDs, the former second-round pick was suspended four times under the previous CBA’s discipline structure. Despite being drafted in 2015, Gregory has played 28 career games.
  • Returning to the Clowney news cycle, the free agent edge rusher wants to join a winning team, veteran Seattle-based NFL reporter John Clayton said during an ESPN 97.3 radio interview (via Eliot Shorr-Parks of 94WIP.radio.com), adding that the Eagles will appeal to the free agent. Clowney’s hesitance about the Browns stemmed from their modern history as a losing team; his Dolphins reluctance did as well, Clayton adds. The Eagles were unwilling to approach Clowney’s lofty asking price earlier this offseason, but with the Browns bowing out and the Seahawks not expected to match their previous offer, his price may now be reduced. And Philadelphia has not been shy about loading up along its lines.
  • Although the Giants plan to pay at least $16.1MM to see if Leonard Williams fits into Patrick Graham‘s defensive scheme, they have not given up on a long-term fit. Big Blue and Williams did not come close on an extension agreement, but Ralph Vacchiano of SNY notes the team can still see a Williams accord coming to pass after the 2020 season. To secure the kind of money he seeks, Williams will need to improve on his half-sack (in 15 games) showing of 2019.
  • The Eagles are ready to increase T.J. Edwards‘ role. Despite the second-year player arriving in the league as a UDFA, the Eagles are penciling him in as their starting middle linebacker, Shorr-Parks notes. A Wisconsin alum, Edwards played just 11% of Philly’s 2019 defensive snaps. But the Eagles cut Nigel Bradham and do not have a host of high-profile names at linebacker. The team did draft two linebackers — in Rounds 3 and 6 — this year, however. But the COVID-19 pandemic has made this a bad year for rookie development.

Latest On David Njoku, Browns

When we learned yesterday of tight end David Njoku‘s trade request, it was assumed that the former first-rounder was displeased with his demotion on the depth chart following the Austin Hooper signing. While that could certainly be the case, ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler tweets that the Browns front office has been aware of Njoku’s unhappiness for “about a year.”

Further, while yesterday’s reports indicated that the Browns would be seeking a first-rounder for Njoku, “sources with other teams” believe that’s an unrealistic asking price. Rather, those sources opine that Njoku would be worth a fourth- or fifth-round draft pick. Meanwhile, Jason Fitzgerald of OverTheCap.com points to the Hayden Hurst trade, where the Ravens received a second-round pick in exchange for the former first-round tight end. Considering Hurst had two years remaining and an option year, Fitzgerald pegs Njoku’s trade value at around a third-round pick.

The Browns already exercised Njoku’s fifth-year option for 2021, but that’s guaranteed for injury only. In other words, there’s a chance that the tight end finds himself hitting free agency following the 2020 campaign, and Cleveland’s added depth at tight end could diminish his value. The Browns signed Hooper to a four-year, $42MM deal this offseason, and they also selected Harrison Bryant in the fourth round.

Of course, there’s still optimism that Njoku could contribute this season. As Nate Ulrich of the Beacon Journal notes, the Browns have continually praised the 23-year-old throughout the offseason, and they’ve hinted that he’ll still have a major role in the offense. Ulrich also observes that new Browns head coach (and former Vikings offensive coordinator) Kevin Stefanski had a pair of tight ends on the field 57-percent of the time during his stint in Minnesota.

Njoku’s unique size and speed made him first-round pick in 2017, and he started to live up to that promise in 2018 when he started 14 games and caught 56 passes for 639 yards and four TDs. Unfortunately, a wrist injury wiped out most of his 2019 season. As he gets closer to free agency, the tight end decided to switch up his representation; we learned yesterday that Njoku had hired Drew Rosenhaus as his agent.

David Njoku Requests Trade; Cowboys Interested?

Browns tight end David Njoku has requested a trade, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (via Twitter). Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com says the team is not looking to move him and would likely ask for a first-round pick if it were to swing a deal. But Njoku’s agent, Drew Rosenhaus, said his client is intent on a trade and wants it to happen before training camp opens.

Njoku’s stance is perfectly reasonable. The Browns signed Austin Hooper to be their TE1 this offseason, and while the club exercised Njoku’s fifth-year option for 2021 earlier this year, that option is guaranteed for injury only. So it’s easy to foresee a scenario in which Njoku cedes snaps to Hooper, doesn’t look like a major part of the offense, and has his option declined, which would make him a UFA without a ton of bargaining power.

On the other hand, a trade now would perhaps allow the 23-year-old Miami product to get a fresh start as the top TE target elsewhere, which could in turn make him a candidate for a lucrative multi-year extension. As Cabot (via Twitter), Njoku just fired his prior agent, Malki Kawa, two days ago, and hired Rosenhaus, who wasted no time in making a characteristically bold move.

Njoku’s size and speed combination made him a tantalizing first-round prospect in 2017, when the Browns snapped him up with the No. 29 overall selection. He started to live up to some of his promise in 2018, when he started 14 games and caught 56 passes for 639 yards and four TDs. Unfortunately, a wrist injury wiped out most of his 2019 season, and the Browns could not resist the chance to add Hooper when free agency opened earlier this year.

Given his age and upside, Njoku profiles as a very intriguing trade target for a TE-needy club, especially since he is due just $1.76MM this year. Even his fifth-year option salary checks in at just north of $6MM, so the Browns should not have difficulty finding a trade partner. But new head coach Kevin Stefanski runs an offense that frequently features two-TE sets, so it makes sense that Cleveland would ask for a first-round pick in return.

One of Cabot’s sources say the Cowboys could have interest in Njoku. Dallas added to its receiving corps already by drafting talented wideout CeeDee Lamb in the first round, but its TE depth chart is currently topped by fourth-year pro Blake Jarwin. Jarwin performed reasonably well as the Cowboys’ TE2 behind Jason Witten in 2019, but Njoku would represent a clear upgrade.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Browns To Exercise Options On Myles Garrett, David Njoku

The Browns will exercise their fifth-year options on defensive end Myles Garrett and tight end David Njoku, according to Mary Kay Cabot of The Plain Dealer (on Twitter). With that, both players will remain under club control through the 2021 season. 

The Browns have opted to stay the course with Garrett – the former No. 1 overall pick – despite his role in last year’s brawl against the Steelers. Now reinstated, Garrett will look to build off of the progress he made pre-suspension.The Texas A&M product managed ten sacks in just ten games last season. Had he played a full season, he likely would have shattered his previous watermark of 13.5 sacks from 2018. All in all, he’s got 30.5 sacks, the highest total of any Browns player within the first three years of their career.

Njoku’s decision was actually a tricker one for the Browns since they’ve added Austin Hooper in free agency. Njoku missed the bulk of the 2019 season thanks to a wrist injury and the fifth-year option is guaranteed for injury only (next year, that will change, thanks to the new CBA). Before that, the tight end enjoyed a breakout 2018 campaign as he recorded 56 catches for 539 yards and four touchdowns. For comparison: Hooper is a two-time Pro Bowler coming off of his best season ever.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC North Notes: Bengals, Browns, Hurst

Were Joe Burrow to be drafted by the Bengals, he wants the team to keep A.J. Green. The Bengals are believed to be zeroing in on the Heisman winner, who told NFL.com’s Jim Trotter he would like Green to be back in Cincinnati — if, in fact, the Bengals follow through on drafting the LSU quarterback (video link). The franchise tag window opens Thursday, and the Bengals have been linked to tagging Green. The nine-year veteran has voiced opposition to this, going into his age-32 season, but said he would play on the tag. However, Green also indicated he would likely miss extensive offseason workouts. An injury last summer shelved Green for all of 2019.

Here is the latest from the AFC North:

  • The Ravens have seen 2018 third-round tight end Mark Andrews become Lamar Jackson‘s top target, leaving 2018 first-round tight end Hayden Hurst in a strange position. The former minor league baseball player-turned-South Carolina football prospect may be on the trade block, with Jeff Howe of The Athletic tweeting there is a “real chance” the Ravens trade Hurst. The former Pirates draftee played hurt as a rookie and caught 30 passes for 349 yards last season. Andrews caught 64 passes for a Ravens-most 852 yards in 2019. For what it’s worth, the tight end-needy Patriots have not contacted the Ravens about Hurst, Howe adds (on Twitter), but Hurst may be a name to monitor in Baltimore in the coming weeks.
  • The Browns will meet with Joe Schobert‘s agent at the Combine, Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer notes. After being so far apart on terms with ex-GM John Dorsey, Schobert is back in the picture to stay in Cleveland, Cabot adds. New GM Andrew Berry‘s hire has reopened the lines of communication with the Browns’ top tackler. Cleveland already has Christian Kirksey attached to a big contract, but the linebacker has struggled with injuries since signing that extension and may be a cap casualty.
  • David Njoku stands as player who likely would have been gone had Dorsey and Freddie Kitchens stayed in power, Cabot adds. But with Kevin Stefanski planning more two-tight end sets, the 2017 first-round pick looks likelier to stay in Cleveland. Having Berry back doesn’t hurt here, either, with the Sashi Brown-Berry-Paul DePodesta regime being in power when Njoku was drafted.
  • Although Dorsey upgraded the Browns’ talent level, his offensive line acquisitions did not pan out. The Browns will not re-sign Greg Robinson, and 2018 right tackle addition Chris Hubbard may be elsewhere next season as well. However, the Browns will likely spend big on at least one offensive lineman, Cabot adds. Jack Conklin, Brandon Scherff and Joe Thuney profile as the top targets who are in line to reach free agency.

Browns Activate TE David Njoku From IR

David Njoku is back. The Browns announced this morning that they’ve activated the tight end from injured reserve. To make room on the roster, the team placed cornerback Robert Jackson on injured reserve.

Njoku had been sidelined since Week 2 as he recovered from both a concussion and a broken wrist. There was always optimism that the 23-year-old would be able to return to the field once he passed the concussion protocol, and he was designated to return from the IR in late November.

Prior to this injury, Njoku had played in 34 consecutive games for the Browns since they selected him 29th overall in the 2017 NFL Draft. The tight end had a breakout season in 2018, hauling in 56 receptions for 639 yards and four touchdowns. He’ll provide Baker Mayfield with another weapon, as the Browns have been relying on the likes of Demetrius Harris and Ricky Seals-Jones during Njoku’s absence.

Jackson, a rookie out of Nevada-Las Vegas, appeared in six games for the Browns this season, compiling three tackles. The defensive back had already been ruled out for this weekend’s game with an ankle injury.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

North Notes: Robinson, Thielen, Browns

Allen Robinson sounds confident the he and the Bears will discuss an extension at some point. The sixth-year wide receiver has enjoyed his best season since 2015, averaging 70.8 yards per game and having become the Bears’ most reliable skill-position player. The 27-year-old wideout sounds willing to wait, however. He is signed through the 2020 season.

My focus is just to finish the season strong, and I am sure at some point in time whether it’s my agent starting it or them, it will be talked about,” Robinson said, via Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune. “There is a good amount of time. So many different scenarios can play out. The time will come.”

Although no guaranteed money remains on Robinson’s three-year, $42MM deal, he is set to earn $10.9MM in base salary next season and is certainly not at risk of being released.

Here is the latest from the North divisions:

  • Adam Thielen‘s last game featuring double-digit snaps came in Week 6, but the Vikings‘ highest-paid skill-position player is trending in a better direction for Monday night’s game. Battling a hamstring injury, Thielen returned to practice Friday and got in two limited workouts this week. He does not expect to be a game-time decision, per Tom Pelissero of NFL.com (on Twitter), so the Vikings (and certain fantasy owners) may have some advance notice. Thielen will see his 1,000-yard streak likely stop after two seasons, but the 29-year-old standout is certainly pivotal to Minnesota’s hopes at winning the NFC North.
  • This will not be the week David Njoku returns to the Browns’ skill-position arsenal. The Browns did not activate their top tight end by Saturday afternoon’s deadline, so he will miss another game. With Njoku having returned to practice on Nov. 20, the Browns do not have to activate him until Dec. 10. If Njoku is not activated by then, he will spend the rest of the season on IR. The third-year tight end underwent surgery for a broken wrist during his IR stay.
  • Cleveland will be without left tackle Greg Robinson as well. The oft-scrutinized former No. 2 overall pick did not practice this week and will remain in concussion protocol through Week 13. Kyle Murphy started for Robinson at left tackle when he was benched earlier this year. The Browns, however, gave the sixth-year blocker his job back soon after.
  • Yet another Andre Smith stint with the Bengals will come to an end. The winless team waived the veteran tackle on Saturday.

Injury Notes: Vernon, Falcons, Njoku, Cole

With defensive lineman Myles Garrett and Larry Objunjobi suspended for this week’s matchup against the Bengals, the Browns were hoping to invite starting end Olivier Vernon back into the lineup after missing the team’s previous two games with a knee injury. However, according to Mary Kay Kabot of Cleveland.com, Vernon has been ruled out for Sunday’s contest, leaving Sheldon Richardson as the team’s only primary starter along the defensive front.

It has been a chaotic season for Cleveland, reaching a climax in last Thursday’s on-field fight with the Steelers. Hoping to put that in the rear-view mirror the Browns will have to rely heavily on their depth to build some positive momentum.

Here’s some more injury notes from around the NFL:

  • The Falcons will be without two of their primary offensive weapons this weekend. Running back Devonta Freeman and tight end Austin Hooper are both out for this Sunday’s game alongside rotational defensive back Kemal Ishmael, according to D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitutional.
  • Browns tight end David Njoku will not return this week from the injured reserve, according to Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com. Njoku, who has been rehabbing a wrist injury, returned to practice this week, but is not quite ready for game action.
  • Texans linebacker Dylan Cole is out for the season with a torn ACL, according to Aaron Wilson of The Houston Chronicle. Cole served as Houston’s primary backup at two linebacker positions and played a major role in the team’s special teams. He played in 11 games and recorded 16 tackles on the season. Going forward, the Texans will need to sure up their depth on special teams and on the second level of their defense.