Cleveland Browns tight end David Njoku has requested a trade, per Adam Schefter. Njoku’s agent informed the Browns they’d like to be traded before the official start of training camp on July 28th.
The reason for the trade request by Njoku appears to be the Browns adding Pro Bowl TE Austin Hooper from the Atlanta Falcons this offseason. Hooper signed a 4-year, $44 million contract with Cleveland and was expected to supplant Njoku as the team’s starter. What Njoku’s role in the offense would be with Hooper in the fold is unknown, but it’s worth noting that the Browns new head coach, Kevin Stefanski, was the offensive coordinator in Minnesota last season and they used two tight ends quite frequently. Backup rookie TE Irv Smith Jr. had 36 receptions last year for the Vikings. The Browns could choose to deny Njoku’s request and hope he begins to understand he’ll still possess a significant role on the team despite the signing of Hooper.
Njoku, a former first round pick, missed most of last season due to a broken wrist, but did return before the season ended. In 2018, Njoku hauled in 56 catches for 639 yards and 4 touchdowns which ranked him 8th in the league in tight end production in just his second NFL season. The Browns exercised Njoku’s 5th year option earlier this offseason, meaning he has two years left on his deal. He’s set to make $1.8 million in 2020 and $6 million in 2021.
New England drafted two tight ends this offseason, both in the third round, but neither have the pedigree of Njoku. Devin Asiasi and Dalton Keene could both prove to be below average NFL players, so there’s no sense in scoffing at the idea of acquiring a player with the talent of Njoku. At the very least, he can serve as a bridge tight end while Asiasi and Keene get comfortable in the NFL. The Patriots would need to cut someone like OL Jermaine Eluemunor to make enough cap space for Njoku. TE Matt LaCosse would likely be another causality of this move.
Bill Belichick also has a long history of making deals with Drew Rosenhaus, Njoku’s agent. Rosenhaus is Rob Gronkowski and Antonio Brown’s agent, both of whom spent varying amounts of time with the Patriots. The news of Njoku’s request coincidentally comes after the tight end needy Patriots just signed Cam Newton to be their new quarterback. Perhaps the request was something of a coordinated effort for Rosenhaus to get one of his other tight end clients to fill the Rob Gronkowski sized void with the Patriots after seeing New England bring in a quarterback who had worked well with a Star tight end like Greg Olsen in the past.
Photo: (Paul Sancya – AP Photo)