It appears the writing may be on the wall for current Cleveland Browns TE David Njoku. Well known US sports agent Drew Rosenhaus, who represents Njoku, has informed the team his client wishes to be traded away prior to the commencement of training camp.
Despite this request, the Browns remain committed to a future that includes Njoku as part of the team. In April this year, the fifth-year option of his contract was picked up, worth an estimated $6.5 million.
A driving force behind these demands could be the arrival of free agent Austin Hooper and rookie Harrison Bryant, a fourth-round selection in the 2020 draft.
If the wishes of David Njoku are indeed granted, he has no shortage of prospective suitors. He has not explicitly stated the need to join a top team, which is often the primary demand of any want-away player.
Therefore, this allows the scope of his future landing spot to be widen to near enough any other team. Here are three of the more likely destinations.
With heavy focus placed on a defensive revamp in the draft, offensive reinforcements have come via free agency. New starting quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and wide receiver Robby Anderson are amongst the key signings the team hope will transform their fortunes. However, alongside these promising additions there was one notable departure. Long time Panther Greg Olsen was released back in February.
The void left by Olsen, now with the Seattle Seahawks, is one that could do with filling. Ian Thomas has now become the team’s de facto TE1, room for improvement there it can be said. The potential arrival of Njoku would provide an instant upgrade.
He would bring a vertical threat at the position, something which the team is currently lacking. Attention needs drawing away from Christian McCaffrey in this offence, Njoku could form an effective tandem with the wide receivers currently on the team to succeed in doing this.
Prior to the 2020 draft, Aaron Rodgers needed more weapons to exploit his strengths. Devin Funchess did arrive from the Indianapolis Colts, but this was the only notable offensive addition in free agency. The draft itself failed to deliver too.
With this in mind, it could pave the way for Njoku to become a Packer. However, the top brass in Green Bay will hope their already young core of tight ends will flourish in 2020. Rookie Josiah Deguara was selected in the third round, joining Jace Sternberger who was taken in the same round just last year.
Having an optimistic plan in place is both a positive and potentially dangerous mindset. If all goes to plan with the current roster then of course there will be a lot of deserved back slapping at Lambeau Field. On the other hand, if the team falls just short of a championship once more, questions will be asked and holes will be picked at with the 55 players on the active squad.
The addition of David Njoku could help to alleviate these fears. Equally, if the Packers were to absorb his $6.5million price tag for 2020 and he has a sub-par season, a different kind of question will be asked at the season’s end.
This is a potential match made in heaven; a team that loves to spread the ball and a tight end built to go vertical. In comparison to the aforementioned Packers, the Cardinals have been aggressive in the off-season. Most notably, the blockbuster trade with the Houston Texans to acquire Deandre Hopkins.
Further to this, the Cards are another team that could do with an upgrade. Maxx Williams currently sits atop the depth chart at the position, with just 4 career TDs to his name, which happens to be double the amount of career fumbles he’s ‘achieved’.
If David Njoku were to join, it would do wonders for the development of Kyler Murray. Expectations are high for the former Heismann winner. It would be the right thing to do to surround him with as much talent as possible. If they build on a promising 2019 this coming season, a Super Bowl window may beckon.
Can a future with the Browns be salvaged?
Although he has expressed a desire for pastures new, the 2020 Cleveland Browns and Njoku can still succeed side-by-side.
The key change for the franchise is the replacement of one-year head coach Freddie Kitchens. In comes Kevin Stefanski, previously offensive coordinator of the Minnesota Vikings. During his tenure with The Purple and Gold, two TE sets were a featured fixture in his playbook.
What might be a cause for concern however is Stefanki’s potential preference for an established veteran alongside a rookie at the position. This is easily achievable for the Browns with new signing Austin Hooper and Florida Atlantic product Harrison Bryant, thus deeming David Njoku expendable.
If a trade does become reality rather than a possibility, it will mean the Browns are satisfied with the compensation they will have received. They spent a 1st round pick (29th overall) on Njoku in 2017, sending 2nd and 4th round selections to the Packers in order to make the pick. Therefore, the price tag they will place on their asset might be steeper than the average rate for a player of this calibre.
Whichever way this situation plays out, the Browns will feel they will not necessarily lose out. They can either keep ahold of a decent tight end for a further season, or receive some useful future draft capital.