David Njoku has requested a trade but the Cleveland Browns are reportedly hoping they can change his mind. Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com said sources told her the team has no interest in dealing the star tight end for any price. The Browns picked up Njoku’s fifth-year option earlier this year and are slated to pay him just $6 million in 2021. He is allegedly incensed by the idea of finishing out his rookie deal and wants the Browns to give him a new long-term — and higher-priced — contract.
ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported on Twitter earlier on Friday that Njoku’s agent, Drew Rosenhaus, informed the team a trade needed to be done before the season starts.
Cabot said another reason Njoku wants out of Cleveland is that the Browns signed another tight end this offseason — Austin Hooper is currently the league’s highest-paid player at the position at $10.5 million per year. They also drafted tight end Harrison Bryant in the fourth round and still have Stephen Carlson and Pharaoh Brown at the position on the roster.
Njoku’s demand to be traded came just two days after he fired his current agent and hired Rosenhaus. His former agent waived the usual period of time for when a new representative can go to work for someone, and Rosenhaus wasted little time to get to work trying to get Njoku off the Browns.
Cabot said the demand came as a surprise to those around the team because its focus had been on how integral the star player was going to be in new coach Kevin Stefanski’s offense. While some wondered if Hooper might have been brought in to replace Njoku, the reality is that Stefanski runs a two-tight-end system. His offensive sets with the Minnesota Vikings in 2019 came out with two tight ends 57 percent of the time, easily topping the NFL. It’s been thought that Hooper and Njoku would be the top tight ends on the depth chart.
Browns’ general manager Andrew Berry made it clear for most of the offseason that Njoku was still very much in the front office’s plans.
“I have been pretty consistent this offseason in terms of we still have a ton of belief in David,” Berry said after the NFL draft in April. “He’s very talented.”
Injuries severely limited Njoku in 2019 as he appeared in just four games and started one. He had five catches for 41 yards and a touchdown. In 2018, he racked up 56 receptions for 639 yards and four touchdowns.