There is uncertainty around TE David Njoku’s future in Cleveland and the Green Bay Packers should make a call to see what it would take to acquire him.
A fresh start. Sometimes that’s just what a NFL player needs to rejuvenate their career and that could very well be the case for current Cleveland Browns’ tight end, David Njoku.
Drafted in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft out of Miami, at 6’4″ – 245 pounds, Njoku has the physical traits, athletic ability, and tools to be a real weapon in this league. Unfortunately, he hasn’t been able to put it all together yet, drops have been an issue at times, and Njoku fell out of favor with the previous regime in Cleveland.
Njoku would have a modest rookie season, playing in all 16 games, five of which were starts, and he would catch 32 passes for 386 yards with four touchdowns. But it’s also worth pointing out that it is extremely difficult for tight ends to produce right away, it’s just a very difficult position to transition to from college. So even though those numbers weren’t eye-popping, they were encouraging.
However, in 2018 things began to look up for Njoku. He started 14 games, had 639 receiving yards, with four touchdowns and saw his catch percentage make a huge jump from 53 percent as a rookie, to nearly 64 percent this season.
Then just this past year, things would head south quickly. An early injury would derail the 2019 season for Njoku, and even when he returned he was used sparingly, and he was actually a healthy scratch for the final two games of the season. In total he would appear in only four games and total five receptions with one touchdown.
Under GM John Dorsey and head coach Freddie Kitchens, I think the odds of Njoku being traded this offseason would be quite high, but with a new coach and GM we have to wait and see if they will give this uber-talented tight end another shot in a different system, or if they’re ready to move on from his as well.
And if it’s the latter, well, then GM Brian Gutekunst and the Green Bay Packers should be making a phone call to Cleveland to see what the asking price is.
At this point, it’s almost a certainty that Jimmy Graham won’t be back, Marcedes Lewis is a free agent, but even if they do re-sign him, he is limited in the passing game. So that leaves Jace Sternberger who is currently the only tight end under contract, along with Robert Tonyan who is an exclusive rights free agent, meaning he will likely be back on a cheap deal.
In the second half of 2019, we saw that Sternberger was a willing blocker and although he only had a few receptions, there were a couple of times when he was open downfield for a big play, but Aaron Rodgers didn’t see him.
Many expect Sternberger to make a big leap in Year 2, but even so, Green Bay still needs more tight end depth and just overall weapons in this offense. And that is what Njoku can provide as a dynamic, big play threat.
During his time at Miami he would average nearly 17 yards per catch and in the 2018 season, Njoku would total 315 yards after the catch, which ranked as the seventh most among tight ends that season who played at least 20 percent of the snaps. And his average YAC of 5.6 that year ranked 13th, tied with Travis Kelce and ahead of notable players like Austin Hooper and Zach Ertz.
That ability to make plays after the catch is something that this Packers team has been lacking at the tight end position in recent years.
As far as what it would take to land Njoku, that’s always the million dollar question. But the Cleveland Browns need some help on the offensive line and the Green Bay Packers just so happen to have a starting caliber guard in Lane Taylor that they will likely move on from.
Green Bay also has their own player in Josh Jackson who may need a fresh start of his own after rarely seeing the field in 2019. Either of those players paired with a fifth or sixth round draft pick, could be enough to get the job done.
Sure, trading for Njoku may be a bit of a flyer but he comes with tremendous upside and a cap hit of just $3 million in 2020. Green Bay would also have a fifth year option that they could pick up for the 2021 season as well.
And as I mentioned above, the transition from college to the NFL for tight ends isn’t easy, so Njoku who will be in his fourth season will likely acclimate much easier to this Green Bay Packers’ offense than a rookie draft pick would.
A fresh start could do wonders for Njoku, especially with Rodgers as the quarterback and in Matt LaFleur’s tight end friendly system. Not to mention that he could add some serious playmaking ability to this offense, which as we all saw, is desperately needed. For the right price, this could be a great match and a call that Gutekunst should make, just to see what Cleveland is wiling to do.