On Monday, the Cleveland Browns used their franchise tag to keep David Njoku, who might be the team’s third-best tight end.
The Cleveland Browns used $10.9 million of cap space on Monday. Was it worth it? Hard to say yes.
General manager Andrew Berry decided to keep tight end David Njoku on the franchise tag, making sure he’s on the roster for 2022. Njoku was slated to hit unrestricted free agency for the first time in his career, but instead will make $10.9 million this season or have a long-term deal negotiated with the club before the July 15 deadline.
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Njoku, 25, has been more potential than production to this point. Cleveland has also continued to invest in the position around him, two offseasons ago signing Austin Hooper to a four-year, $44 million deal. The Browns also drafted Harrison Bryant out of Florida Atlantic with a fourth-round pick in 2020.
So far, the production for Hooper has been lackluster. After a pair of Pro Bowl years with the Atlanta Falcons prior to signing with Cleveland, Hooper has amassed a total of 84 catches, 780 yards and seven touchdowns. As for Bryant, there has been good development as a reserve. Through two campaigns, the former Owls star has six touchdown grabs.
Yet while Hooper hasn’t lived up to his billing, Njoku has done even less. Over the past three years, the University of Miami (FL) product has 60 receptions for 729 yards and seven scores, all while missing a full season (16 games) over that span.
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Still, the Browns believe Njoku can be a key part of their offense in 2022. This might also be because the team could be without receiver Jarvis Landry as a cap casualty, only months after releasing Odell Beckham Jr. before he signed and won a Super Bowl with the Los Angeles Rams.
For Njoku and a litany of other Browns, this season could determine their futures. If Cleveland bounces back and makes the playoffs for the second time in three campaigns, there will be extensions. If not, we could see the end of head coach Kevin Stefanski, quarterback Baker Mayfield, Njoku and many others on the banks of Lake Erie.