The 2020 season was a strange one for Cleveland Browns tight end David Njoku.
The team signed tight end Austin Hooper in free agency in March, selected tight end Harrison Bryant in the fourth round of the 2020 NFL Draft in April, and then picked up Njoku’s fifth-year option two days later.
That led Njoku, or more accurately his new agent Drew Rosenhaus, to demand a trade in July. Cleveland general manager Andrew Berry wisely ignored Rosenhaus, and head coach Kevin Stefanski eventually had the opportunity to talk with Njoku and explain to him the benefits of playing in a tight-end friendly offense.
While Njoku did not put up big numbers on his own - just 19 receptions for 213 yards and two touchdowns - but as a group, Njoku, Hooper and Bryant had a solid season by combining for 89 receptions, 886 yards and nine touchdowns.
Even though his targets were down, became a solid contributor as a blocker and made the most of his opportunities, especially in the playoffs when he had five receptions for 66 yards in two games.
The fact that the Browns were winning helped smooth over some potential issues, but now that the offseason has arrived, Njoku is left pondering what comes next as he enters the final year of his contract with the Browns, as he admitted during an appearance on the Jim Rome Show on Friday (quotes via The Beacon Journal):
“That’s a good question. I’m not going to answer that right now. I have no comment towards that at this moment. I’m just going to enjoy my family, my friends, my loved ones. I have a couple of projects happening in the near future, so I’m just focused on the right now and let everything handle itself in the near future.
“I was confused because the Browns [exercised] my fifth-year option and they got all of these other tight ends. At the same time, I’d been hearing [coach] Kevin Stefanski’s offense is very tight end-oriented. So I was optimistic about everything. I was excited to get back to work. With a couple of complications obviously here and there throughout the season, it put me in a predicament where I had nothing to do but just put my head down and work.”
The situation with Njoku will be one to watch in the coming months. While he probably did not enjoy being the second or third option among the tight ends, once the season started he appeared to embrace being part of a winning team.
Of course, putting up another season with just 19 receptions is not very appealing to a player entering his contract year, so one should be surprised if the trade rumors or trade demands start to resurface near draft day.
The Browns do not need to make a move, however, and the idea of bringing back as many players on offense as possible now that they have a year together in Stefanski’s offense should be near the top of the offseason checklist.