If the Cleveland Browns want to make some roster room, it could mean the end of a certain veteran.
As the 2021 NFL Draft rapidly rounds the corner, players young and old are wondering their status with the team. A rookie could be viewed as an instant starter or one used to replace an expiring contract.
For the Cleveland Browns, they won’t need to replace much following the offseason.
Cleveland came several plays short against the Kansas City Chiefs to play in the AFC title game. After fixing their secondary with the additions of John Johnson III and Troy Hill, the expectation is the Browns will become the next powerhouse of the AFC North.
David Njoku = TE1
-81st-percentile SPARQ-x score
-1 of 11 TEs with 8+ catches of 20+ yards in 2017 pic.twitter.com/dfC2lJj6VZ
— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) March 31, 2018
New GM Andrew Berry will be making several tough calls this offseason to build a Super Bowl winning roster. Perhaps the toughest? The status of David Njoku.
And with the draft around the corner, trading the fifth-year tight end might be the best course of action moving into next season.
Should the Browns trade Njoku
Njoku, 24, and agent Drew Rosenhaus asked Cleveland for a trade last summer but Berry made it clear he was determined to keep the former first-rounder. The team also elected to pick up his fifth-year option following a successful start in both 2018 and 2019.
Last season, Njoku tallied 19 catches off 29 targets for 213 yards and two touchdowns in 13 games. Both Austin Hooper and rookie Harrison Bryant played at least 591 snaps during the 16-game season. Njoku only played in 361 snaps (33.9 percent).
Hooper, who singed a four-year deal worth $42 million in 2020, and Bryant, the team’s fifth-round pick, clearly are viewed as long-term options. Njoku, who will earn just over $6 million in 2021, likely won’t see more than half the snaps next season should he remain in Cleveland.
So, what’s best? Trade him and garner a pick.
The Tennessee Titans, Los Angeles Chargers, Carolina Panthers and Washington Football Team all could be looking for a tight end this offseason. Both Tennessee and Los Angeles lost their top target in free agency, while Washington could use stability as a No. 2 option opposite of Logan Thomas.
— Mary Kay Cabot (@MaryKayCabot) March 2, 2021
Carolina also seemed to be the mix last season following Njoku’s trade request, but the two sides never were able to come to a deal.
As for the price? It likely would only cost a team a late-round selection. Something along the lines of say a late fourth or early fifth-round option.
Even in a limited role, Njoku’s upside might show he’s the top target of Cleveland’s tight ends. In a different system, perhaps the former first-rounder can show why many believed he’d be a top tight end when drafted out of Miami.