Cleveland Browns extension for David Njoku shows commitment to multiple tight ends

CLEVELAND, OH - SEPTEMBER 20: David Njoku #85 of the Cleveland Browns runs onto the field during the player introduction against the New York Jets at FirstEnergy Stadium on September 20, 2018 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images) David Njoku
CLEVELAND, OH - SEPTEMBER 20: David Njoku #85 of the Cleveland Browns runs onto the field during the player introduction against the New York Jets at FirstEnergy Stadium on September 20, 2018 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images) David Njoku /

The fifth-year extension for Myles Garrett was expected, but the extension for David Njoku signifies that the Cleveland Browns will play more than one tight end.

The Cleveland Browns have extended Myles Garrett by picking up his fifth-year option for 2021, which should surprise absolutely no one. They also extended David Njoku, which may be more of a shock. When last seen, he was deep in former coach Freddie Kitchens’ dog house, so much so that many fans thought he might be permanently gone. The extensions were announced on the Cleveland Browns website in an article by Andrew Gribble.

The fifth-year option is a special rule that allows teams to automatically renew a player who was a first-round draft pick but at a higher rate of pay. According to Mary Kay Cabot in, Myles Garrett will pull down $15.1 M as the 2016 first overall pick, and David Njoku is getting $6.4 M as the 29th pick.

Cleveland will try to work out extensions with both players, and if a long term deal is reached, it may actually be easier on the 2021 salary cap because bonus money is distributed over the length of the contract, rather than being charged to the first year. Teams usually get a discount in terms of salary cap charges in the first year.

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Garrett has been sensational and there is absolutely zero doubt that the Browns will try to make him one of the highest-paid defensive linemen in the NFL. By contrast, however, many fans were expecting Njoku to be traded or released this year. Last year, he finished the year as the fifth string tight end behind Stephen Carlson, Demetrius Harris, Ricky Seals-Jones, and Pharaoh Brown. He was a healthy scratch in two games last year.

Njoku also generated some frustration with the fan base because of the perception that he was underperforming as a blocker. In Cleveland, fans appreciate football players who deliver crushing blocks.

But consider that in 2018 he was one of Baker Mayfield’s favorite targets, hauling in 56 passes for 639 yards and catch percentage of 63.6 pct. By contrast, the Browns top four tight ends in 2019 combined for only 456 yards. Even if Njoku is not a perfect tight end, you cannot throw away 639 receiving yards and gift wrap him for the Steelers.

Njoku’s big payday signifies first of all that the front office still has faith in him. He is a talented player and comes from a well-respected family known for producing both athletes and intellectuals.

Second, the team will use multiple tight end sets. This fan has been writing this offseason that the Browns are going to run the ball with Chubb, Hunt, and the situational backs. Some fans were taken aback when I predicted that there would not be a wide receiver taken early in this draft, because they already have two starters and there are no other starting positions available for wide receivers.

So sure the Browns are interested to add talent, but not in blowing a pick that should be used for a starter. This is not going to be a run and shoot team that plays three and four wide receivers and it is not Air Freddie in which the offense is keyed to creating bombs for the wide receivers.

The Browns will probably carry four tight ends, including newcomers Austin Hooper and Harrison Bryant. What will the Browns do with all those tight ends? Throw to them, that’s what.

According to Michael Fabiano of, last year’s Minnesota Vikings with Kevin Stefanski as offensive coordinator used an extra tight end more often than the extra wide receiver. The Vikes used the extra tight end, 1RB-2TE-2WR (or 12 personnel for those who speak offensive coordinator-ese) 34.9 percent of the time. Yet they only used 1RB-1TE-3WR (11 personnel) 20.6 percent of the time. They ran the ball 476 times, or 83 more than the Browns did. Face it, Stefanski likes tight ends and he likes to run the ball.

One of the grudges us old-timers have against Freddie Kitchens is that he was afraid to run the ball. Despite having Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt, the Browns were 22nd in the NFL in rushing attempts. That is an incredible, unbelievable stat. Freddie, what were you waiting for?

No matter. Congratulations to Myles Garrett, your extension is well deserved and hopefully, the team will get with your agent and extend your contract. And congratulations also to David Njoku and welcome back from your temporary exile.

Fans can look forward to seeing a team built with big blockers up front, extra tight ends, a true fullback, and a cadre of talented running backs. They still have the electrifying Baker Mayfield but he is going to throw way bombs (but do you want to bet me that he will complete more of them this year).

dark. Next. Way too early 2021 1st round mock draft

So, when they re-open the stadium, bring your lunch pail and wear your hard hat, not the brown and orange beanie with the propeller on top.