Tight end David Njoku is affordable and worthy
Despite persistent folk wisdom to the contrary, David Njoku was the Browns’ best blocking tight end the past two years and the best receiving tight end the past two years. Harrison Bryant was the second-best in both categories. Austin Hooper was third best, but still led the Browns tight ends in total snaps and pass targets.
Hooper is a fixture on the team after signing a four-year, $42 million contract. This season, his snaps increased over last season, but his yardage numbers decreased. He is nowhere near the offensive threat he was a few years ago, and his second year in Cleveland was worse than his first season.
It could be the way that the Browns use him, or possibly there is a tendency of Baker Mayfield to cause Pro Bowl talents to come to earth when they share the field with him. The Browns had three Pro Bowl receivers (Odell Beckham, Jr., Jarvis Landry, and Hooper), but now seem to hate Beckham, are disappointed in Landry, and are wavering in support of Hooper. Go figure.
Hooper was a decent tight end in 2021. In 717 snaps, he was targeted 61 times and had 38 receptions (62.3% catch percentage) for 345 yards and 5.7 yards per target. He also blocked well.
However, Hooper’s free agency is not an option this season, but Njoku’s is. Njoku was significantly better. In 670 snaps, he was targeted 53 times, had 36 receptions (67.9% catch percentage), 475 yards, and 9.0 yards per target.
Nevertheless, with Njoku getting twice as many yards as Hooper at $6 million last season on fewer receptions and a higher catch efficiency, quite a number of fans will complain that Njoku gets paid too much and doesn’t catch the ball well enough. So let’s work the numbers, shall we (even though it is unlikely to convince anyone)? Hooper was the highest-paid tight end in the NFL in 2021 in terms of cap charge, at $8.25 million. So, on a per-dollar basis:
Hooper was paid $217.1 thousand per reception, Njoku $166.7 thousand per reception.
Hooper was paid $23.9 thousand per receiving yard; Njoku $12.6 thousand per receiving yard.
Hooper was paid $2.75 million per receiving touchdown; Njoku $1.50 million per receiving TDs.
If we are cool with Hooper getting a good deal, what’s the issue with Njoku? Njoku outperformed Hooper in every aspect of the game last season and was paid less money.