David Njoku

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.

Browns Place Franchise Tag On David Njoku

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 Bradleyas well as offensive linemen Michael Dunn and Blake Hance.

Browns Want To Keep TE David Njoku, Willing To Pay $10MM+

The Browns are motivated to keep David Njoku in Cleveland. Mary Kat Cabot of Cleveland.com writes that the organization “definitely” wants to retain their tight end.

Specifically, the front office is “prepared to pay him the double-digit millions” that he’d presumably command on the open market. The team has also had consistent talks with Njoku’s representatives over the past few months. The report seems to hint that Njoku will listen to other suitors, but the Browns will be waiting with a sizable offer.

This news comes as a bit of a surprise after the organization inked Austin Hooper to a hefty four-year, $44MM deal in 2020. Njoku subsequently requested a trade, but his camp rescinded that request a few months later, and the tight end has remained in Cleveland. Things have clearly gotten better between the two sides; before this past season, Njoku made it clear that he wants to stay with the organization.

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

While Njoku will presumably command a hefty pay day when he hits free agency, the former first-round pick hasn’t put up huge numbers during his time in Cleveland. He topped out in 2018 with 639 receiving yards and four touchdowns. After a pair of underwhelming, injury-riddle seasons in 2019 and 2020, the 25-year-old somewhat bounced back in 2021, finishing with 36 receptions for 475 yards and four scores.

Minor NFL Transactions:  12/7/21

Today’s minor moves:

Arizona Cardinals

Cleveland Browns

Denver Broncos

New York Jets

Washington Football Team

Browns Likely To Be Quiet At Trade Deadline

The Browns, currently sitting at 4-3 and in third place in the AFC North, are not expected to swing a major deal in advance of Tuesday’s trade deadline, according to Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com. Cabot does not anticipate the club acquiring a high-profile talent or trading one away.

Wide receiver Odell Beckham became the subject of trade speculation even before his first season in Cleveland was over, and those rumors have continued to crop up ever since. The Browns have done their best to quash all such rumblings, and Beckham will likely stay put at least through the end of the 2021 campaign. After all, he is dealing with a painful sprain in his right shoulder, and he is still owed $9MM over the rest of the season, so even if Cleveland were interesting in making a trade, there are obvious hurdles.

Plus, the Browns have every reason to keep Beckham around. Although he and QB Baker Mayfield have yet to develop a consistent rapport, OBJ continues to get open and remains an elite talent, so it would be surprising to see a Cleveland outfit that has postseason aspirations make that type of trade.

The same logic applies to tight ends David Njoku and Austin Hooper. Neither player has offered much production in 2021 — aside from a monster Week 5 game for Njoku that accounted for over half of his 2021 receiving yards and his only touchdown — but the hope is that the passing game will improve as the season goes on, just as it did last year. Njoku is playing on an expiring contract and requested a trade on several occasions last summer, but his most recent comments on the matter suggested that he would like to remain in Cleveland, and Cabot expects both him and Hooper to still be Browns once the deadline has passed.

Speaking of Mayfield, Cabot says the No. 1 overall pick of the 2018 draft will likely require offseason surgery on his injured shoulder. His injury has complicated extension talks, and now, if an extension is reached, it probably won’t happen until after the season. Mayfield is under club control through 2022 via the fifth-year option of his rookie deal, which the Browns exercised earlier this year.

In related news, Cleveland does have starting RT Jack Conklin back in action for today’s critical matchup with the Steelers. Conklin had missed the prior two games with a knee injury.

Browns’ David Njoku Wants Extension

It sounds like David Njoku wants to stick with the Browns after all. Despite his previous trade demands (and flip-flops on the matter), the tight end says he wants to move forward with Cleveland

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

Njoku pushed for a trade last summer and doubled down prior to the 2020 trade deadline. He also made it sound like he wanted out as recently as February. However, it seems like Njoku is now in a good place with the Browns.

The Browns signed Austin Hooper to a big contract last year and drafted Harrison Bryant, which reduced Njoku’s role in the offense. He finished out 2020 with just 19 catches for 213 yards and one touchdown. That was a far cry from his best work in 2018 — 56 grabs for 639 yards and four TDs. In between, he lost most of 2019 to injury.

While he’s shown plenty of flashes of potential, the U of M product has yet to live up to his first-round status. But, despite all the drama and the crowded TE chart, the Browns still opted to exercise his fifth-year option. For now, he’s got one year and ~$6MM to go on his deal.

David Njoku ‘In A Good Place’ With Browns

There’s been a lot of drama with David Njoku and the Browns over the past year. The young tight end requested a trade last July, then rescinded that request in August. In October, he once again changed his mind and asked to be traded around the deadline.

No trade materialized, with Cleveland reportedly not wanting to deal him. Just when it seemed like everything had calmed down, Njoku fanned the flames once again in February by responding very cryptically to an interviewer asking about his future with the team.

However, it seems like things have now been patched over. The Browns have “weathered the storm” and Njoku is now “in a good place with the franchise,” a source told Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com (Twitter link).

Cleveland signed Austin Hooper to a big contract and drafted Harrison Bryant, which reduced Njoku’s role and made him unhappy. The Browns drafted the Miami product 29th overall back in 2017. While he’s shown plenty of flashes of potential, he hasn’t lived up to first-round status.

In 2018 he appeared on the verge of breaking out, racking up 639 yards and four touchdowns. Injuries then limited him to only four games in 2019, and he caught only 19 passes for 213 yards and two touchdowns.

Despite all the drama, Njoku is slated to make a little over $6MM this season after Cleveland picked up his fifth-year option last year. It’ll be the final year of his rookie deal. Njoku was drafted very young so he’s still only 24, and has all the theoretical potential in the world. 2021 is shaping up to be a make or break year for him.