The Cleveland Browns gave David Njoku a massive contract for some reason.
The Cleveland Browns made a giant gamble by giving David Njoku a massive contract that he has in no way shown to be worth having. Njoku had a solid year in 2021 but his up and down career in Cleveland, and his constant depth chart shifting have made him someone I would not deem to be the most reliable of talents. Signing him to an extension makes sense, absolutely. There isn’t likely to be a talent of his level available in 2023 should he opt to test free agency. Retaining him wasn’t the issue.
Giving him top 5 tight end money was. Njoku signed a four-year deal, with $56.75 million and a whopping $28 million in guaranteed cash. This means Njoku, who has never topped 640 yards in a season or hit five touchdowns in a season, will now need to produce like his name is Travis Kelce.
That may be possible, but it would have made more sense to see if Njoku could even put up that type of production with his new quarterback, and his quarterback’s propensity for making random women cry.
Njoku has not always played well. He’s had issues with drops, being able to hold blocks and his attitude has landed him in the dog house before. He’s been benched, demoted, and even demanded a trade. Now, Njoku is eating up a massive amount of future money.
What makes this even more maddening is the Browns have invested so much money into their offense and there’s no guarantee it’ll work. Deshaun Watson, who may not play in 2022 (or ever again), Amari Cooper, Nick Chubb, and Njoku are all in the Top 7 for most guaranteed money at their positions, according to ESPN’s Jake Trotter.
"The Browns are now the only team in the NFL that have a quarterback (Watson), running back (Nick Chubb), wide receiver (Amari Cooper), and tight end (Njoku) that all rank in the top seven at their position in guaranteed money."
The margin for error has just been narrowed significantly for the Cleveland Browns.
According to Spotrac, the Browns now have just $7.454 million in salary-cap space in 2022 and are projected to be $13 million over the cap next year. Keep in mind, that the -$13 million balance for next season already includes Baker Mayfield’s cap hit being removed. So that’s $13 million they need to get rid of, on top of Mayfields’ $18.8 million this year.
All that financial mastery that Andrew Berry is doing that people are raving about doesn’t erase the money owed. It just delays it. So yes, Berry may have created a robust squad for 2022, but that window may close in 2023 or 2024 when all that delayed money has to be paid.
Not only will Cooper’s contract count against the books after his contract expires, but the Browns have $15 million in dead cap money that has to be paid this year and another $7.5 next year. That money can’t be finagled with.
Berry is betting on winning big in the next two years before he’s forced to cut guys like Joel Bitonio, Cooper, and probably even Njoku. While it’s possible he can retain some of them if they play ball, he’ll also have to say goodbye to Anthony Walker, Greedy Williams, Jack Conklin, Kareem Hunt, and Jedrick Wills.
By 2024, Nick Chubb is likely gone as well at this rate.
The Browns are no longer being built for long-term sustainability, so if they wif on a Super Bowl in the next two seasons, there’s very likely little chance that the Browns look as good in 2024 as they do in 2022.
Still a chance, sure, but this team is being built to win in the immediate.