David Njoku reportedly requested a trade from the Cleveland Browns on Friday.
Cleveland Browns tight end David Njoku and his agent Drew Rosenhaus have asked for a trade, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter. The Browns want to keep Njoku, but Rosenhaus made it known Njoku is focused on a trade.
The Browns exercised Njoku’s fifth-year option in April, keeping him under contract until 2021. Browns general manager Andrew Berry said at the time they believed in Njoku’s talent and wanted him to be a part of their future, despite multiple additions to the tight end room this offseason.
The additions of Austin Hooper and Harrison Bryant to the tight end room this offseason makes Njoku’s request to be traded less of a problem. Although Njoku has shown the potential of being a dynamic pass catcher as a tight end, the Browns have the depth and talent to replace the soon-to-be 24-year-old.
Hooper was signed to be the No. 1 tight end, and the Browns clearly have belief Bryant can be a contributor in their offense after selecting him in the fourth round of the 2020 NFL Draft. The Browns also have even more depth at the position with Pharaoh Brown and Stephen Carlson.
Njoku has not lived up to his potential since being selected in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft. An athletic tight end coming out of Miami (FL), it was known Njoku was going to have to grow into the position in the NFL. He had the pass catching skills, but needed to refine his in-line blocking as well as fixing his drop issues.
Njoku did not have the best rookie year, catching 32 of his 60 targets for 386 yards and four touchdowns. He was expected to take a big leap in 2018, but did not have quite the jump in production as expected. Njoku caught 56 of his 88 targets for 639 yards and four touchdowns.
After showing growth in his sophomore season, 2019 was the time for a breakout season from Njoku. However, that did not happen after he was injured Week 2 and missed half the season with the injury. Njoku then had issues with then head coach Freddie Kitchens, causing him to be a healthy scratch at the end of the season.
Since being drafted, the hype surrounding Njoku has outweighed his production on the field. After three seasons in the NFL, he has not shown the development that would inspire the front office. Therefore, his request to be traded is not going to hurt the Browns in 2020 and allow the Browns to add depth to other positions or add more draft capital.
Although new head coach Kevin Stefanski prefers to use two tight end sets, the Browns can easily replace Njoku as the No. 2 tight end with their depth. Cleveland also would have needed Njoku to improve as a blocker if he would have been used as the No. 2 tight end, something that has not happened since Njoku entered the NFL.
It remains to be seen what Njoku’s trade value is considering his injury plagued 2019 season and slow development. Knowing Njoku wants to be traded, it also takes away some of Cleveland’s leverage in trade discussions. However, some teams who need tight ends could still believe in Njoku’s potential, which could create a dense market for the tight end.
Njoku has been unable to live up to his potential in Cleveland, and with his time as a Brown seemingly over, it is fair to say he was a disappointment in Cleveland. The Browns may wait to trade Njoku, but it appears he will be traded sooner rather than later.