David Njoku

Trade Rumors: Thomas, Njoku, Watt, Jets

Saints head coach Sean Payton has said his team has no interest in trading star receiver Michael Thomas, though Thomas’ camp was recently said to be looking for potential deals. There has been no movement towards a Thomas trade, and whether that’s because New Orleans has no interest in dealing him or because the club has not received an offer it likes, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com says Thomas will stay put.

With the trade deadline two days away, let’s round up a few more rumors on players who could be on the move:

  • The Browns don’t want to trade tight end David Njoku, but Njoku has renewed his request to be dealt, and Rapoport says Cleveland has been fielding calls on the former first-rounder. It may take at least a fourth-round pick to get a deal done, but with Austin Hooper set to return and with the emergence of rookie Harrison Bryant, the Browns may elect to move Njoku.
  • Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports writes that the Texans are at the center of the trade market, with one executive saying Houston could move as many as five players if it wants to. Rapoport expects the Packersinterest in Will Fuller — which dates back to the summer — to ramp up, but it will likely take a high pick to convince the Texans to move Fuller. Fellow WR Kenny Stills has also drawn some interest, though rival clubs see the contracts for Stills and Randall Cobb as prohibitive. DE J.J. Watt may be receptive to a trade, but considering his contract and age, other teams probably don’t value him like the Texans do.
  • The Jets have received calls on LB Avery Williamson, OTs George Fant and Chuma Edoga, and CB Quincy Wilson, per Albert Breer of SI.com. Rich Cimini of ESPN.com says the Steelers — who recently lost Devin Bush for the season — could be in the market for Williamson, and Edoga also seems like a good bet to be dealt since he does not look like a fit with the current regime.
  • La Canfora says teams have also called the Jets about WR Breshad Perriman and TE Chris Herndon, though Breer notes that safety Marcus Maye has not drawn much interest.
  • Rapoport names Dolphins RB Jordan Howard and Seahawks TE Jacob Hollister as two other players who could be moved. And though the Bengals are shopping disgruntled wideout John Ross, Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com says there hasn’t been interest in Ross (Twitter link).

David Njoku Wants To Be Traded Again

David Njoku has changed his mind once again. The Browns’ tight end originally requested to be traded back in July, only to rescind that request in August.

He has apparently now flipped back the other way, as a source told Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com that Njoku once again wants to be dealt. Kay Cabot writes that so far the Browns haven’t been inclined to trade him, but that could change if they get a good offer. The trade deadline is November 3rd, two weeks from tomorrow. The 29th overall pick of the 2017 draft, Njoku had three catches for 50 yards in Cleveland’s opener before going down with a knee injury.

He missed the next three games, but has been back for the last couple, only racking up two catches for 13 yards the last two weeks. The Browns like to use a lot of multiple tight end sets, but the offseason signing of Austin Hooper and drafting of Harrison Bryant in the fourth-round have made Njoku more expendable.

The Miami product has all the physical skills in the world, but he’s been unable to harness his athletic potential consistently. He looked to be on the verge of a breakout in 2018 when he started a full season and had 56 catches for 639 yards and four touchdowns, but a broken wrist limited him to just four games last year.

The new regime has no real ties to Njoku, and there’s been a clear rift for a while. They picked up his fifth-year option this past offseason, which is only guaranteed for injury.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

IR/Activation Notes: Njoku, 49ers, Rams, Giants

David Njoku is back. The Browns announced this morning that they’ve activated the tight end from the injured reserve.

The 24-year-old suffered a knee injury during Cleveland’s season opener, and he was subsequently placed on IR. He was designated for return earlier this week, and coach Kevin Stefanski indicated that Njoku would see the field sooner than later. The tight end had three receptions for 50 yards and one touchdown in Week 1, surpassing some of the totals he compiled during his injury-plagued 2019 campaign.

Njoku requested a trade back in July, only to rescind it in early August. While the former first-rounder sits behind free agent addition Austin Hooper on the depth chart (and has to battle the likes of Odell Beckham Jr., Jarvis Landry, and Kareem Hunt for targets), Njoku should still see a role in the offense going forward.

Let’s check out some more IR/activation notes from around the NFL…

  • The 49ers‘ injury woes continue, as Matt Barrows of The Athletic reports (via Twitter) that defensive end Ezekiel Ansah (biceps) and cornerback K’Waun Williams (knee/hip) are heading to the IR. Ansah joined San Francisco in late September, and he’s proceeded to appear in two games. He spent the 2019 campaign with the Seahawks, finishing with 18 tackles, two forced fumbles, and 2.5 sacks. Williams has spent the past three-plus seasons with the 49ers, and he’s started two of his four appearances this season. Fortunately, there is some good news out of San Francisco, as head coach Kyle Shanahan told reporters that quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo will start Sunday against the Dolphins (via ESPN’s Adam Schefter on Twitter). Garoppolo has missed the past two-plus games, with the team mostly turning to Nick Mullens in his stead.
  • 2020 third-round pick Terrell Lewis could make his debut for the Rams this weekend. Jourdan Rodrigue of The Athletic tweets that the rookie linebacker has been activated off the IR. Following a stint on the reserve/COVID-19 list, Lewis underwent a knee scope just before the start of the season. The former Alabama standout could immediately see some time on the edge for the Rams.
  • The Giants placed linebacker Oshane Ximines on IR with a shoulder injury, reports SNY’s Ralph Vacchiano (via Twitter). The 2019 third-rounder saw time in all 16 games as a rookie, finishing with 4.5 sacks. He started three of the Giants first four games in 2020, collecting five tackles.

Browns Place David Njoku On IR

The Browns have placed tight end David Njoku on the injured reserve list, per a club announcement. The good news is that Njoku is expected to miss only three weeks with a with a sprained MCL, according to a source who spoke with ESPN.com’s Adam Schefter (on Twitter). 

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Njoku reeled in three catches for 50 yards before exiting Sunday’s loss to the Ravens. His one-yard touchdown catch represented their only score in the 38-6 drumming. The Browns will now lean even more on No. 1 TE Austin Hooper, with support from fourth-round rookie Harrison Bryant and Stephen Carlson.

Njoku missed more than half of the 2019 season with a broken wrist. Now, he’s out for at least the next few games against the Bengals, the Washington Football Team, and the Cowboys. He’ll be eligible to return on Oct. 11, when the Browns face the Colts in Cleveland.

The 24-year-old requested a trade in July, only to rescind it in early August. With a backseat to Hooper, Njoku is under contract through 2021, with manageable salaries of $1.76MM this season and $6MM next year. When he returns, he’ll look to get back to the form he exhibited in 2018 when he tallied 56 grabs for 639 yards and four scores.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

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.