TE David Njoku extension could be difficult for Browns

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  • Cleveland Browns
    Cleveland Browns
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  • David Njoku
    David Njoku
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  • Baker Mayfield
    Baker Mayfield
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The Cleveland Browns have a lot of questions to answer in the 2022 offseason. The team has attempted to put the quarterback question to bed early but Baker Mayfield will continue to be the focus for many. First, there was a leaked report related to the team’s exit interview with Mayfield. Then, GM Andrew Berry made it clear he expects Mayfield to bounce back in 2022 as the team’s starter.

Before free agency and the NFL draft, Cleveland has a chance to extend pending free agents from their team. Two of the biggest names are DE Jadeveon Clowney and TE David Njoku. Clowney’s one year with the Browns was very good which could price him out of their market. He is likely to test what the market for him is.

Njoku has spent his first five years in the NFL in Cleveland and has stated multiple times this year that he wants to continue with the team. Most recently, when talking with the media after the season, Njoku noted wanting to spend his whole career with the team:

Unfortunately for Njoku and the Browns, an extension could be difficult.

The team already has over $13 million in cap space tied up in Austin Hooper. Even if Cleveland cuts him, they still have almost $10 million in a dead cap hit. With needs around the roster, especially at wide receiver and defensive line (pending Clowney’s future), spending more money at tight end may be difficult.

Njoku’s production is also a concern for the team. While he is one of the offense’s most explosive players, he hasn’t produced big numbers. This year, his 475 yards ranks him behind players like Jared Cook, Tyler Higbee, Pat Freiermuth and C.J. Uzomah. His four touchdowns tied him for 12th among tight ends.

On his fifth-year option on his rookie contract, Njoku made just over $6 million in 2021. Given his explosive upside and (still) young age, 25, his agent may be looking for a deal that pays him more than that for a yearly average. The Browns may value him but his lack of big-time production and their investment in Hooper may make a deal difficult before free agency opens.

Perhaps the young tight end tests the market and not find what he is looking for. With 2022 being a make-or-break year for Mayfield, keeping one of his most explosive threats on the team could be valuable. It just might not come before Njoku gets to explore his options first.