David Njoku is making it very clear he wants to play out the 2021 season with the Cleveland Browns. Well, at least that’s how he’s making it look like on social media. Njoku wasn’t very happy last year in Cleveland. The Browns signed Austin Hooper and then drafted Harrison Bryant. It was becoming clear the Browns weren’t going to be in the Njoku business for too much longer. That’s when the trade demands started to pop up.
Njoku had a miserable 2020 season statistically speaking, with only 19 receptions, for 213 yards and two touchdowns. His effort was there, however, and he never seemingly took a play off, at least that anyone noticed. So yes, his stats were bad but his effort wasn’t.
The Browns are now fully on the hook for his $6.013 million unless they trade him, which will cost nothing against the Browns in terms of penalties. Njoku sits at third on the depth chart behind inconsistent but impressive former-rookie Bryant and underperforming former Pro-Bowler Hooper.
So Cleveland is paying a third-string tight end $6 million for 2021 as it stands right now. That’s not a bad thing, completely. Njoku is athletic enough (as is Bryant) to play off the line, and in the slot, so he provides versatility and he clearly wants to be in Cleveland if his tweets over the last few days are any indication. Plus, he comes off the books after this year, so it’s not like he’s Hooper and eating a lot of cap space for not so much production.
The problem lies with next year, in 2022. Will the Browns even offer him a deal, regardless of how he plays this year? Njoku has made it abundantly clear that making $6 million in a season isn’t enough for him.
And that’s fair. He’s a pro athlete and he has a short shelf life as a pro player. He should prioritize what he feels is most important and make the moves necessary to achieve that. There’s no way the Browns will pay him more than $6 million per year while paying Hooper more than $10 million. The only two teams, right now, who are paying more than that on two tight ends are the Patriots and the Buccaneers. Of those four players, none are listed as “TE3” on a depth chart.
So if the Browns are done chasing big moves for 2021, then yes, Njoku will probably remain on the roster through the end of the year. Beyond that, however? It’s safe to say that Njoku may not be suiting up for the Browns in 2022, one way or another.
Until then, let’s hope Njoku can put on some dazzling performances.