Njoku Stunner, Or Was It?

Friday July 3, Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter ) tweeted, “Browns’ TE David Njoku and his agent Drew Rosenhaus asked today for the team to trade him. The Browns told Njoku they would like to keep him, but Rosenhaus told them he’s intent on a trade. They want a trade before training camp. About David Njoku’s trade request today to the Browns, agent Drew Rosenhaus said: ‘It is in David’s best interest to find a new team at this time.'”  The Browns have publicly maintained that Njoku was in their plans moving forward despite signing free agent TE Austin Hopper and drafting TE Harrison Bryant.

Last year the Minnesota offense under new Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski used multiple tight sets 57% of the time, number one in the league. Offensive Coordinator Alex Van Pelt stressed that fact earlier this year, “He is going to add to that tight end room,” Van Pelt said in a Zoom conference last month. “There will be times we are out there with three tight end sets — that is part of this system — and to have him with the ability he has both athletically to play inline or get him out in space and get some matchup issues with safeties and linebackers covering him, I am excited to see what he has to offer.”

But were the Browns really caught off guard by Rosenhaus’s trade request? They did pick up Njoku’s fifth year option at six million dollars for 2020. However, Jeremy Fowler ( @JFowlerESPN ) tweeted Friday night, “The Browns have known for about a year that David Njoku was unhappy in Cleveland and would welcome a trade, I’m told. They were not blindsided by this. Early predictions from sources with other teams is Njoku might be worth a fourth or fifth round pick.” So with this information, who are the Browns likely trade partners and what would be the compensation be for the 24 year old tight end?

The first thought would be a player for player trade with the Jacksonville Jaguars involving DE Yannick Ngakoue. The Jaguars are in full rebuild mode as evidenced by trading veterans DL Calais Campbell, QB Nick Foles and CB A.J. Bouye. Even before the team franchise tagged Ngakoue, Ngakoue made it clear he wanted out. He tweeted, ( @YannickNgakoue) “The Jaguars are aware I no longer have interest in signing a long term contract in Jacksonville, Duval, I love you and gave you guys everything I got. I’m thankful for the journey and look forward to continuing my career elsewhere.” After four seasons, the 25 year old Defensive End has recorded 37.5 sacks and has never averaged less than eight sacks a season. It is believed the Jaguars are seeking a first round pick for Ngakoue, but as training camp approaches, that demand might lessen. A rebuilding team is seeking draft picks, not players.

What other teams might be interested in trading for Njoku? The only one that makes sense is the Green Bay Packers. The Packers tight end room is a little bare. They do have fifteen year veteran Marcedes Lewis and did draft Josiah Deguara out of the University of Cincinnati, but after those two, the talent is lacking. If Jeremy Fowler’s sources are correct and Njoku is worth a fourth or a fifth round pick, the Packers have three fourth round picks and two sixth round picks.

If the Browns are able to trade David Njoku, what would their tight end room look like? After Hooper and Bryant, the Browns have Stephen Carlson, Pharaoh Brown and undrafted rookie free agent Nate Wieting out of Iowa. Wieting is 6’4″ tall and weighs 225 pounds and his career stats at Iowa were thirteen receptions for 185 yards with no touchdowns. That isn’t very inspiring.

In 2019 the Vikings started the season with four tight ends on the roster, so barring injury, the Browns could start the season with Hooper, Bryant, Carlson and Brown as their tight ends. If the Browns want to go the free agent route, the best available unsigned tight ends are mostly aging veterans like Delanie Walker, Luke Stocker and Charles Clay. The Browns better hope for no training camp injuries after looking at this group. If the above four players make the opening day roster, there is a nice mix of receivers and blockers, but that depends on the development of Harrison Bryant. It looks like General Manager Andrew Berry knew this trade request was coming by the drafting of Bryant. So it appears it’s not a stunner after all.

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