David Njoku

AFC Rumors: Texans, Jeudy, Njoku

The Texans will be without two key players as they go up against their former quarterback and the Browns this weekend, according to Aaron Wilson of KPRC2. Leading wide receiver Brandin Cooks and rookie cornerback Derek Stingley have been ruled out going into the weekend.

Houston has struggled mightily so far this year en route to a 1-9-1 record. Despite the promise heading into the year of the connection between second-year starting quarterback Davis Mills and Cooks, neither has quite lived up to their potential. Mills has officially lost the starting job he earned as a rookie, getting benched for Kyle Allen. Cooks, after cracking the 1,000-yard receiving mark in each of his first two seasons with the Texans, will be hard-pressed to reach that achievement this year as he currently boasts 520 receiving yards with only seven games remaining. Cooks will miss his second game of the season with a calf injury, and the Texans will be forced to lean on Nico Collins, Chris Moore, Phillip Dorsett, and Amari Rodgers to hopefully make up for the loss of Cooks.

Stingley is set to miss his third game in a row with a hamstring issue. Stingley has endured a rough transition to the NFL. So far in his rookie season, Stingley has only graded out as the NFL’s 107th-best cornerback, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required). Still, he is third on the Texans with five passes defensed and tied for second with one interception, showing that he makes an impact on a defense that has struggled for much of the year. In Stingley’s absence, Desmond King will continue to start opposite Steven Nelson with Tavierre Thomas getting some solid action, as well.

Here are a few other injury rumors from around the AFC, starting with some potentially good news at Mile High:

  • Broncos wide receiver Jerry Jeudy could be set to make a return to the field against the Ravens this weekend, according to Kyle Newman of the Denver Post. After a two-week absence, the third-year wide out is a game-time decision to play. KJ Hamler will miss a fourth straight game, after suffering a recent setback in his recovery from a hamstring injury. Jeudy’s return would be a big boost for a Denver team that has been forced to rely on Kendall Hinton, Montrell Washington, and Brandon Johnson as its Courtland Sutton supporting cast over the past two games.
  • After returning for two straight games, Browns tight end David Njoku has been ruled out once again, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter. Despite a slow start to the season, Njoku had begun a streak of strong performances to justify his new contract. Unfortunately, his momentum came to a crashing halt when he missed two games with an ankle injury. Coming off a five-catch performance last week that included a game-tying touchdown catch with 32 seconds remaining, seeing Njoku sidelined once again, this time with a knee injury, is the last thing Browns fans were hoping to see.

Browns LB Jacob Phillips Expected To Miss Rest Of Season; TE David Njoku To Miss Time

Weeks after seeing Anthony Walker go down with a season-ending injury, the Browns believe one of their other linebackers will not return this year. Kevin Stefanski said Jacob Phillips is unlikely to come back in 2022 due to a pectoral injury, Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com notes.

The Browns had turned to Phillips, a third-round pick in 2020, as a full-time player in the wake of Walker’s injury. Phillips played every Browns defensive snap from Weeks 4-6, but this marks another major injury for the former LSU Tiger. He missed much of last season because of a biceps tear.

Cleveland will turn to another LSU alum now. The team’s recent trade for Deion Jones was designed at giving the former Falcon a key role once he sufficiently acclimated himself in Joe Woods‘ defense. After spending the first six weeks of the season on IR and playing 52% of Cleveland’s defensive snaps in Week 7, Jones will be needed as a full-timer alongside Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah. Jones, 28 next week, fell out of favor in Atlanta but has 83 career starts on his resume. The Browns’ Monday-night game against the Bengals will likely be No. 84.

Phillips, 23, who debuted at LSU in 2017, did not overlap at the SEC school with Jones — a 2016 second-round pick. Phillips started Sunday’s game in Baltimore and made seven solo tackles, giving him 46 for the season. He added two sacks — against the Steelers and Chargers — during his run replacing Walker as well. Phillips’ rookie contract runs through 2023.

Additionally, the Browns are set to be without David Njoku for a stretch. The sixth-year tight end sustained a high ankle sprain, Cabot adds. The recently extended pass catcher is set for a two- to five-week recovery timetable. Njoku, 26, left M&T Bank Stadium on crutches Sunday. This will interrupt the former first-rounder’s career-best pace. Njoku, who caught seven passes for 71 yards against the Ravens, had totaled 418 yards this season. His career-high (639) came back in 2018.

The Browns extended Njoku on a five-year, $54.75MM deal weeks after franchise-tagging him. While the 2017 draftee had not offered much consistency in Cleveland, the team is banking on him making a mid-career leap during Deshaun Watson‘s run at quarterback. Njoku was rewarding the team’s faith thus far; his 34 receptions tie Amari Cooper for most on the team. By the time Njoku returns, Watson may be at the helm.

Browns To Pursue Tight Ends?

The Browns may have committed to David Njoku this offseason, but that won’t stop the organization from seeking additional depth at the position. ESPN.com’s Jake Trotter writes that the Browns are “a good bet” to pursue another tight end.

Despite Njoku’s wavering commitment to the organization, the Browns inked the tight end to a four-year, $56.75MM extension. In recent seasons, the former first-round pick has struggled to put together a year that’s come close to his 2018 campaign (639 receiving yards…he’s collected 729 receiving yards since). Still, he’ll sit atop Cleveland’s depth chart for the foreseeable future.

The Browns also sound like they’re committed to 2020 fourth-round pick Harrison Bryant. In two seasons with the team, the tight end has hauled in 45 receptions for 471 yards and six touchdowns in 31 games (12 starts). Bryant earned PFWA All-Rookie Team honors in 2020.

After those two, the Browns lack experienced depth. The team moved on from both Austin Hooper and Stephen Carlson this offseason, leaving practice squad TE Miller Forristall as the third tight end. The team added Nakia Griffin-Stewart as a free agent, and they signed a pair of UDFAs in Zaire Mitchell-Paden and Marcus Santos.

Jared Cook, Eric Ebron, and Kyle Rudolph are among the notable TEs still available in free agency. However, Trotter implies that the organization could ultimately make their addition following preseason cuts.

Contract Details: Njoku, Addison, Fuller

Here are some details on deals recently signed around the NFL:

  • David Njoku, TE (Browns): Four-year, $54.75MM. The contract, according to Mike Florio of NBC Sports, has an amount guaranteed at signing of $17MM consisting of a signing bonus of $11.47MM, the 2022 base salary of $1.04MM, and the 2023 base salary of $4.5MM. Unless the Browns release Njoku by the third league day in March of 2023, Njoku will receive an additional guaranteed bonus of $11MM consisting of an $8MM 2023 option bonus and $3MM of the 2024 base salary. The additional $11MM is only dependent on roster status, being guaranteed for injury at signing. The full amount of the 2024 base salary, including the guaranteed amount of $3MM, is $13MM. The 2025 base salary is worth $14.25MM. There are two automatically voided years built in for 2026 and 2027 meant to spread around the bonuses and cap hits. In 2024, Njoku will receive a per game active bonus of $88,235 for a potential total of $1.5MM. In 2025, Njoku will receive a per game active bonus of $58,823 for a potential season total of $1MM. The deal also includes annual incentives of $250,000 if Njoku is named first- or second-team All-Pro and $500,000 if he’s named All-Pro and the Browns make the playoffs.
  • Mario Addison, DE (Texans): Two-year, $7.7MM. The deal, according to Aaron Wilson of Pro Football Network, has a total guaranteed amount of $4.6MM consisting of a signing bonus of $2MM, the 2022 base salary of $1.5MM, and $1.1MM of the 2023 base salary. The 2023 base salary, including the guaranteed amount, is worth $3MM in total. Wilson reports an annual per game active bonus of $35,294 for a potential per season total of $600,000.
  • Kyle Fuller, CB (Ravens): One-year, $2.5MM. The contract, according to Field Yates of ESPN, is fully guaranteed with a signing bonus of $1.38MM and a base salary of $1.12MM.

Latest On Browns’ Wide Receiver Situation

Fans of the Browns may have been hoping to add a few more veteran bodies to the wide receiver room this offseason, but, according to Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com, the Browns “don’t feel compelled to add a bona fide No. 2 just for the sake of it.” 

Cleveland’s receiving stats last year were nothing short of disappointing. Their wide receiver room was headed by Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry coming into the season with youngsters Anthony Schwartz and Donovan Peoples-Jones eager to contribute. Paired with a three-headed tight end attack comprised of David Njoku, Austin Hooper, and Harrison Bryant, the Browns’ offensive weapons looked poised for success.

Several factors contributed to the team’s lack of production in the passing game. Quarterback Baker Mayfield played throughout the season with a torn labrum, missing some time due to the injury and leading to starts by backups Case Keenum and Nick Mullens. A disgruntled Beckham parted ways with the franchise following a frustrating first half of the season and Landry saw injuries limit his action to 12 games. Peoples-Jones made an impact, leading the team in receiving yards, but without the two leaders of the room, his efforts look less like an impressive No. 3 receiver and more like a disappointing No. 1 target. After Landry and Peoples-Jones, Mayfield mostly targeted his tight ends, with Njoku, Hooper, and Bryant making up half of the team’s top-6 players in receiving yards. Again, much like with Peoples-Jones, the tight end room’s contribution was welcomed, but without a productive 1-2 punch from the receiving corps, it only helped so much.

With veterans Beckham, Landry, and Rashard Higgins all finding their way to the NFC this offseason, the Browns lost their entire veteran presence. To offset the losses, Cleveland brought in Amari Cooper, who immediately slots in as WR1, and the diminutive Jakeem Grant, an expert in the return game. They retain youngsters Schwartz, Peoples-Jones, and Ja’Marcus Bradley, while bringing in an unproven pass catcher in Javon Wims. Through the Draft, Cleveland brought in Purdue’s David Bell and Oklahoma’s Michael Woods II. They also signed a number of undrafted college players in Isaiah Weston, Travell Harris, and Mike Harley. At tight end, the departure of Hooper leaves Cleveland with Njoku, Bryant, and unproven projects like Miller Forristall, Nakia Griffin-Stewart, Zaire Mitchell-Paden, and college basketball player Marcus Santos-Silva.

It seems Cleveland is comfortable moving forward with Cooper and Peoples-Jones as their top two receivers while counting on Grant, Schwartz, and the rookie, Bell, to contribute behind them. They’ll continue to rely on tight ends Njoku and Bryant, leaning on them slightly more now that Hooper is out of the picture.

If the Browns were able to luck into a mutually beneficial deal, they may find themselves reconsidering their mindset on a veteran No.2 receiver. The free agent market still houses distinguished names like Julio Jones, T.Y. Hilton, Emmanuel Sanders, and DeSean Jackson. Past contributors like Allen Hurns, Cole Beasley, and Albert Wilson remain on the market, as well. Beckham is currently a free agent who has expressed interest in returning to his most recent home in Los Angeles, but he recently claimed he wouldn’t rule out a return to Cleveland. Former Texan Will Fuller is also available to sign and has expressed interest in rejoining his former quarterback.

Regardless of whether or not they choose to add another weapon to their receiving corps, the Browns are hoping for a different outcome simply by changing the composition of personnel. Perhaps more important than any of the additions and subtractions noted above is the acquisition of quarterback Deshaun Watson. It’s unclear how soon he’ll be able to contribute, but the prospect, alone, of having the three-time Pro Bowler under center is enough to instill confidence in the receiving room as it is for the Cleveland staff.

Browns, TE David Njoku Agree On Extension

David Njoku will turn his franchise tag into a top-five tight end agreement. Weeks ahead of the deadline for franchise-tagged players to sign extensions, the Browns have come to terms with the former first-round pick.

The Browns are signing Njoku to a four-year deal worth $56.75MM, Ian Rapoport and Tom Pelissero of NFL.com report (on Twitter). Njoku will see $28MM fully guaranteed. This $14.2MM-per-year deal makes the five-year Browns contributor the NFL’s fourth-highest-paid tight end.

Cleveland, which entered Friday holding the second-most cap space in the league, could have used this season as a de facto audition year for Njoku on the tag. But reports kept indicating the Browns’ seriousness about extending him. After making an offer north of $13MM per year, the Browns confirmed their faith in Njoku with this deal.

Njoku’s $14.2MM-AAV figure comes in below George Kittle‘s $15MM positional highwater mark, but it is right in the neighborhood of Travis Kelce ($14.3MM AAV) and Dallas Goedert ($14.25MM). Considering Njoku’s lack of statistical success on his rookie contract, this is a major win for the ex-Miami Hurricane and a Browns bet on his potential.

The 2017 first-rounder has just one 500-yard season on his resume. That came back in 2018, when Hue Jackson, Todd Haley and Freddie Kitchens were running Cleveland’s offense. The 6-foot-4 pass catcher, however, is only going into his age-26 season. Several prime years could remain ahead for Njoku, who should have a big opportunity to up his game with Deshaun Watson now at quarterback in Cleveland.

This extension comes two months after the Browns cut Austin Hooper, whom they previously signed to a top-five (at the time) tight end deal. Hooper’s presence cut into Njoku’s opportunities, but in tagging the latter ahead of the March deadline, the Browns signaled they still believed in the younger player’s potential. Njoku headlines a Cleveland tight end depth chart that includes 2020 fourth-round pick Harrison Bryant. This contract makes it clear who the Browns will rely on at the position.

The Browns traded back into the 2017 first round, after having already selected two players that year (which included trading out of the Watson draft slot with the Texans), to nab Njoku with the No. 29 overall pick. Other than his 639-yard 2018 showing, Njoku has never taken off in Cleveland. His tenure also included a rocky stretch in 2020, when he requested a trade at multiple points after Hooper signed. The sides patched up their relationship, and Njoku did produce his second-best statistical season (475 yards, four touchdown catches) — as the Browns’ passing attack cratered — in 2021.

Amari Cooper is set to be the centerpiece of Cleveland’s passing attack, and Donovan Peoples-Jones is positioned to be the trade acquisition’s top complementary player. The team cut Jarvis Landry and, despite rumors about a reunion, let him sign with the Saints following the draft. Njoku will be poised to be a key target for Watson and, in all likelihood, Jacoby Brissett this season.

This still represents a big bet on the potential of a player who has not displayed consistency yet. This deal also stands to impact the negotiations for fellow franchise-tagged tight ends Mike Gesicki and Dalton Schultz. It will be interesting to see if it affects Darren Waller‘s approach with the Raiders. Going into his age-30 season, the former Pro Bowler is tied to a below-market $7.6MM-per-year pact.

Browns Nearing Extension With TE David Njoku

One week ago, it was reported that the Browns had tabled a contract offer to tight end David Njoku. According to Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com, a deal could be coming in the near future. 

[RELATED: Browns Submit Offer To Njoku]

As Cabot notes, the 25-year-old is currently away from the team during OTAs while negotiations continue. The team used the franchise tag on him in March, which would pay him $10.9MM in the absence of a long-term deal. The move was seen as something of a surprise, given Njoku’s inconsistent production and the presence (at the time) of Austin Hooper.

With the latter out of the picture now, and the arrival of Deshaun Watson at quarterback, expectations are high for the former first round pick. The Browns have maintained their desire to keep Njoku in the fold, and the two sides were engaged in contract talks at the beginning of April. The fact that the Miami product is the undisputed No. 1 at his position on one hand, and his career-high in receiving yards being just 639 on the other, make this situation an intriguing one.

Cabot adds (via Twitter) that the sides are “very close” on the matter of the deal’s average value of around $13MM. That figure is right in line with the amount reported last week, and would move Njoku into the top five in the league in terms of annual compensation. Cabot reports that the main impediment to a contract being finalized is the matter of guaranteed money, but that the deal could finalized by the end of the week.

If it does get done, that would place even higher expectations on Njoku within the Browns’ new-look offense. It would also likely have a notable ripple effect on the contract demands of Mike Gesicki and Dalton Schultz, whom the Dolphins and Cowboys, respectively, franchise tagged this offseason as well.

Browns Submit Offer To TE David Njoku

David Njoku finds himself in an interesting position. The Browns hit the former first-round pick with the franchise tag, despite the veteran tight end’s history of inconsistent production. Njoku now has an offer to consider, but he is also set to play with a three-time Pro Bowl quarterback this season.

This year’s tight end franchise tag came in at $10.9MM, but the Browns’ offer is believed to be beyond $13MM annually, according to ESPN.com’s Jeremy Fowler (ESPN+ link). Considering Njoku’s production history, landing top-five money at his position would be quite the coup. But the guarantee structure is not yet known.

[RELATED: Browns Confident They Will Extend Njoku]

The Browns have been discussing a deal with Njoku’s camp for months, and the five-year veteran said last year he wanted to reach a long-term agreement to stay in Cleveland. This would be a turnaround development for Njoku, who sought a trade at multiple points in 2020. He compiled just 213 receiving yards and two touchdowns that year, when the Browns gave Austin Hooper a $10.5MM-per-year deal. Hooper is now out of the picture, having been cut in March.

Four tight ends — George Kittle, Travis Kelce, Dallas Goedert and Mark Andrews — earn more than $14MM per year. No one else at this position is signed to a contract worth $13MM-plus. Njoku, who has one season with more than 500 receiving yards (2018), would not seem to have a case to join that top tier. But it is clear the Browns value the 2017 first-round pick, who caught 36 passes for 475 yards and four touchdowns last season. He joined Mike Gesicki and Dalton Schultz in receiving the tag, and GM Andrew Berry was with the team when it selected Njoku out of Miami five years ago.

Njoku, 25, has a chance to post career-best numbers with Deshaun Watson at the controls. That said, it is unknown how much of this season Watson will play. That stands to affect Njoku, who would go into a critical year should he opt to play on the tag to push for a bigger payday. The Browns have just one other pass catcher (Amari Cooper) signed to a notable veteran contract and hold the NFL’s most cap space, at more than $27MM. Cleveland has until July 15 to extend Njoku.

Browns, David Njoku Talking Extension

The Browns and David Njoku are in active extension talks (Twitter link via NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport). The two sides only have until July 15 to get a deal done, but all parties are confident that they’ll come to terms.

[RELATED: Browns GM Proposed Fully Guaranteed Watson Deal]

The Browns used the franchise tag on Njoku, choosing to cuff him despite also having Austin Hooper at the time. The 25-year-old (26 in July) could now command a deal worth upwards of $10MM — something the Browns are reportedly willing to do.

I’ve been here (Cleveland) for four years going on five,” Njoku said last summer. “I don’t know anything different. I want to keep being here.”

For now, the Browns have Njoku at a $10.8MM cap figure in 2022, a number they hope to tamp down.

Njoku, a 2017 first-round pick, enjoyed his best year in 2018 when he notched 56 grabs 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 2021, Njoku finished with 36 catches for 475 yards and four touchdowns.

Cardinals, TE Zach Ertz Closing In On Deal

After acquiring tight end Zach Ertz in a trade with the Eagles in mid-October of last year, the Cardinals are finalizing a new multi-year deal for the nine-year veteran, according to Tom Pelissero of NFL Network. The three-year deal is set to keep the 31-year-old among the top-10 highest-paid tight ends in the NFL. 

Ertz is a three-time Pro Bowler who set the NFL-record for single-season receptions for a tight end in 2018 with 116 catches, which trailed only Saints’ receiver Michael Thomas for the league lead among all pass-catchers. Ertz was consistently productive in Philadelphia, recording five-straight seasons with at least 800 receiving yards.

After taking a back seat role to the Eagles’ younger tight end Dallas Goedert, the Cardinals made the move to acquire Ertz and watched him thrive in the new system. Ertz’s 11 games in Arizona in 2021 showed far more production than the 11 games he played in Philadelphia the year prior. With wide receivers Christian Kirk and A.J. Green set to hit the free agent market this week, locking down their tight end was a must.

The three-year deal will be worth $31.65MM with a guaranteed amount of $17.5MM. The annual average value of $10.55MM ranks 10th among NFL tight ends, just below David Njoku, Mike Gesicki, and Dalton Schultz, who got franchise tagged for $10.93MM. With this deal Ertz is now off the crowded tight end market, along with the three who were tagged. Remaining options for those looking for tight ends are C.J. Uzomah, Robert Tonyan, Evan Engram, and Will Dissly.