The Cleveland Browns worked their way through the second day of Organized Team Activities on Wednesday without a key member of the offense.
Tight end David Njoku is not participating in this week’s voluntary workouts, although there is nothing ominous about his absence. Njoku is just being cautious while his agent and the Browns iron out the details of a contract extension, according to cleveland.com’s Mary Kay Cabot.
David Njoku skipping #Browns OTAs while he awaits a new deal, source says; 2 sides are very close on ave. of more than $13M, but guarantees are the holdup. Could get done this week https://t.co/73TvLZOEhq— Mary Kay Cabot (@MaryKayCabot) May 25, 2022
The new deal would pay Njoku an average of between $13 million and $14 million a year, but while that part of the deal is to everyone’s liking, the sticking point is how much of the contract the Browns are willing to guarantee, according to Cabot.
Once that little detail is ironed out, Njoku is expected to sign and get to work on claiming the team’s No. 1 tight end position in more than just salary.
If the contract numbers come in as reported, it would make Njoku the fifth-highest paid tight end in the league and place him in some elite company alongside George Kittle of the San Francisco 49ers, Travis Kelce of the Kansas City Chiefs, Dallas Goedert of the Philadelphia Eagles and Mark Andrews of the Baltimore Ravens.
A look at the raw numbers might leave some fans scratching their heads about why Njoku should be in the same discussion with the league’s top tight ends, given that his best overall season came in 2018 as he had a career-high 88 targets and finished with 56 receptions for 639 yards and four touchdowns.
But if you look at Njoku’s overall production given the number of targets he has received, you find a bit of a different picture.
Let’s use Kelce, who has posted six consecutive 1,000-yard receiving seasons. During that time, Kelce has averaged 134 targets, 94 receptions, 1,211 yards and 7.8 touchdowns while playing with quarterback Patrick Mahomes.
Using Njoku’s career catch rate of 61.7 percent (which has actually been higher the past two seasons), and his average yards per reception of 11.9 (which is only a yard off of Kelce’s career average), if Njoku were to receive 134 targets he would finish with 82 receptions for 975 yards and eight touchdowns - not that far off of what Kelce has accomplished.
And Njoku has done that playing with quarterbacks who are not Mahomes, but depending on how things work out with quarterback Deshaun Watson’s off-field issues, Njoku’s situation is about to get better.
Projections are one thing, of course, while actual production is far more difficult to come by. Njoku may never put up numbers on par with the likes of Kelce or Kittle, but he can still be an effective weapon in Cleveland’s passing attack and worth the money the team is about to invest in him.