For the vast majority of their second life in the NFL, returning in 1999, the Cleveland Browns have not been a destination at which players have wanted to play. What few prized free agents they have been able to bring in have only come when they have paid a premium above what anybody else was offering.
Just last year, running back Duke Williams requested that he be traded, threatening not to report. While he eventually did report, he hired Drew Rosenhaus to facilitate trade talks, which ultimately manifested.
He was not the only player who wanted to be traded. Even if you do not include the reports of players like Odell Beckham, Jr. telling opposing players during the 2019 season in advance of the trade deadline to tell their coaches to ‘come get me’, reports are that David Njoku also wanted to be traded.
He has since rescinded his quest to be traded, as we have written about, of course, and the team is looking forward to working with him, after they picked up his fifth-year option earlier this offseason. New head coach Kevin Stefanski prefers to run a two-tight end system, which will include 2020 free agent signing Austin Hooper.
What I can tell you with David, really, even since the Spring, and definitely since we’ve been back, he’s been very engaged with our coaching staff, our performance staff”, said new general manager Andrew Berry, who was with the organization when Njoku was drafted. “He’s shown up in terrific shape”.
“I do think that there’s an element of getting back around with your teammates, your coaches, the excitement of training camp”, he added, in talking about his decision to rescind his trade request. “We’ve been very consistent with David that we think he can be a big part of where we’re trying to go as a team this year, and that he has an important role to play on this roster and on this team”.
Berry on David Njoku and his rescinded trade request: “What can I tell you with David. … he’s been very engaged with our coaching staff. He’s shown up in terrific shape. … We think he has an important role to play. … We think he can have a fantastic year.” pic.twitter.com/T2OeEo36YN
— Jake Trotter (@Jake_Trotter) August 4, 2020
Njoku was one of three selections that the Browns made in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft, a class headlined by Myles Garrett with the first-overall selection. The other first-round pick, safety Jabrill Peppers, was traded last year to the New York Giants as part of the deal to acquire Beckham.
The tight end only logged 99 snaps last year due to injury, but he had a promising second season in 2018 with a rookie Baker Mayfield, catching 56 passes for 639 yards and four touchdowns, numbers that are on par with what Vance McDonald did for the Pittsburgh Steelers the same year.
The New Jersey native only turned 24 years old less than a month ago in spite of the fact that he is heading into his fourth season. His athletic talent suggests that there is still a lot of room for him to grow, and the Browns are hoping to unlock that potential this year.