One of the offseason’s more consequential trade requests appears to be on ice.
I’m all in Cleveland. Time to work.— Chief David Njoku (@David_Njoku80) August 1, 2020
Njoku’s agent Drew Rosenhaus confirmed Njoku ended his trade request following some meetings with the Browns in a subsequent email to Cleveland.com’s Mary Kay Cabot:
Rosenhaus said in an email response that Njoku “has had some good meetings with the new Browns organization including GM Andrew Berry, and he has decided to give the team his full commitment right now and go from there.”
Njoku had made his intentions known in early July, telling the Browns he wanted to be traded before the beginning of training camp. The Browns immediately indicated they would like to keep him, and it appears they’ve succeeded in convincing the fourth-year player to stay.
The Browns selected Njoku with the 29th overall pick in the 2017 NFL draft, the third of three first-round picks that year. After posting 1,025 receiving yards and 8 touchdowns between his rookie and sophomore seasons, Njoku missed all but four games last season due to a broken wrist suffered in Week 2. The Browns still exercised his fifth-year option in April, keeping him under contract until after the 2021-22 season.
Njoku has a fit in Browns’ new offense
Complicating Njoku’s place on the Browns was free agent acquisition Austin Hooper, who signed a four-year, $42 million contract with $23 million guaranteed with the team following a career year with the Atlanta Falcons. The $10.5 million annual value places Hooper second among all tight ends in salary, behind only Hunter Henry of the Los Angeles Chargers.
At first glance, that would appear to make Njoku an odd man out in Cleveland’s latest splashy offseason. However, the man running the Browns offense, new head coach Kevin Stefanski, will almost definitely have a use for the former first-rounder.
Prior to landing in Cleveland, Stefanski had used two-tight end sets more than any other team as the offensive coordinator of the Minnesota Vikings. Tight ends Kyle Rudolph and Irv Smith Jr. saw an almost identical amount of targets, 48 to 47 respectively last year.
Kevin Stefanski's Vikings offense had at least two tight ends on the field 53 percent of the time this season. No team used multiple tight end sets more. #Browns— Brent Sobleski (@brentsobleski) January 17, 2020
In Hooper and Njoku, Stefanski has two players that would be worth using to maintain that trend. Stefanski said as much following Hooper’s signing and the drafting of Florida Atlantic tight end Harrison Bryant in the fourth round of the 2020 NFL draft.
From The Athletic:
“I see guys you don’t have to leave in one position,” Stefanski said. “Versatility is the key for us. We will be in 12 personnel (one back, two tight ends) and we’ll be 13 (one back, three tight ends). What we don’t want to do is become predictable. We’ll have different formations out of each personnel group. We’re trying to be difficult to defend … we want (tight end) to be a position of strength for us.”
This was all known before Njoku lobbied his trade request, but it might have taken a full breakdown of the Browns’ plan for the offense to convince him that it would be worth sticking around.
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