I hope David Njoku likes money, because he has plenty of it now. The sixth-year veteran tight end just signed a new four-year extension with the Cleveland Browns that is paying him inside the upper echelon of the position—a contract clearly driven by what the team expects him to contribute going forward, rather than what he has already done.
According to media reports, the Browns and Njoku agreed to a four-year contract worth $56.75 million, averaging more than $14 million per season, which is the fifth-highest APY for a tight end contract in the NFL right now. $28 million is guaranteed at signing.
Since the Browns drafted him in the first round in 2017, Njoku has recorded 148 catches for 1,754 yards and 15 touchdowns in 65 games. He had one of his better statistical seasons in 2021, catching 36 passes for 475 yards and four touchdowns in 16 games.
So where do those numbers stack up against other tight ends during that same period? Well, not amazing. He ranks 23 among tight ends in receptions since 2017, 20th in yards, and tied for 18th in receiving touchdowns. And now he’s being paid in the same tier as Travis Kelce, George Kittle, Dallas Goedert, and Mark Andrews.
Speaking of whom, Kelce has 480 receptions for 6,144 yards and 43 touchdowns since 2017. Kittle has 335 receptions for 4,489 yards and 20 touchdowns. Andrews (who was drafted in 2018) has 263 receptions for 3,466 yards and 29 touchdowns. Goedert (also drafted in 2018) has 193 receptions for 2,295 yards and 16 touchdowns.
This doesn’t even factor in other tight ends such as Rob Gronkowski, Darren Waller, Zach Ertz, Jared Cook, Austin Hooper, Hunter Henry, and others. Njoku’s numbers really are rather undistinguished, and he is not a significant blocker, either.
The Browns obviously believe that the 25-year-old tight end will greatly benefit from the team’s new offense with quarterback Deshaun Watson rather than Baker Mayfield running the show. His efficiency numbers last season were actually an improvement—it’s just that he was not a high-usage player, only targeted 53 times, and only credited with two drops.
Cleveland placed the franchise tag on Njoku earlier this offseason, which was already somewhat of a surprise to many. He was set to earn under $11 million for the 2022 season on that tender. He now earns significantly more than that per-year on his new contract.
As always, of course, the final details of the deal will tell the true story. How much of that $28 million is fully guaranteed, for example? How much guaranteed money is there beyond the first year? How backloaded is it? We’ll find out more in the coming days.