The chatter, despite starting as a whisper, is quickly churning into more substance.
The speculation of Odell Beckham Jr. wanting out of Cleveland has quickly shifted toward 23-year-old tight end David Njoku, who has reportedly requested a trade from the Browns.
The news should not come as a sincere shock. After all, the Browns splurged for former tight end Austin Hooper in the offseason and selected 2019 John Mackey Award winner Harrison Bryant in the fourth round of the 2020 NFL Draft. While Njoku had a solid 2018 season (56 receptions, 639 yards and four touchdowns), an injury-riddled 2019 and increased competition at the position could leave Njoku on the wrong end of the 2020 playing time stick.
Should Njoku have his wish granted, where would the ideal fit be? Where could he become one of the primary targets on offense? Where could he be developed as a blocker and receiver? When looking at teams based off of need and personnel, here are five potential fits for Njoku.
Arizona’s tight end duo of Charles Clay and Maxx Williams combined for 439 yards and two touchdowns last season. While Williams could take a step forward and Clay could re-discover his form from when he was with Miami and Buffalo, Njoku brings better upside to the table, which can better supplement Arizona’s slant game with wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald. Njoku, under Kliff Kingsbury’s tutelage, could develop his blocking skills more efficiently to better implement the heavy screen offense the Cardinals have put forth since Kyler Murray took the helm as the starting quarterback. While the 2020 NFL Draft addition of offensive tackle Josh Jones can help the offense set up those screens, Njoku gives Arizona another option should Jones need assistance in setting the plays up.
The Cardinals will already be spreading opposing defenses out with the addition of wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins. Adding Njoku to the fold would not only transition Clay and Williams into a supporting role but would give the Cardinals a potentially dynamic tight end that can receive and block.
Wait a minute. How can Njoku’s own team be a fit when he wants a trade away from them? To start, the Browns could simply not trade him (and have stated as such) and still use him in their new-look offense under Kevin Stefanski. After all, Stefanski has a track record of utilizing multiple tight ends on the field at the same time. According to ESPN Stats and Info, the Minnesota Vikings used two tight ends on the field 57% of the time while Stefanski was their offensive coordinator for the final three games of 2018 and all of 2019. Utilizing Hooper and Njoku together on the field while grooming Bryant for future use could give the offense more variety. Njoku could potentially see more targets should Beckham Jr. get traded before or during the season. Whatever the weather, Njoku could still reinforce the offensive line, whether injuries occur or 2020 first-rounder Jedrick Wills Jr. has trouble transitioning to left tackle.
New England Patriots
To keep it short and sweet, New England needs more weapons. Sure, they have a slot receiver in Julian Edelman, but he is 34. Sure, they have a potential outside threat in N’Keal Harry, but he is raw and had injury issues during his 2019 rookie season. While Njoku was also injured last year, he gives New England another receiving option. More importantly, it gives New England a productive tight end the team has severely lacked since Rob Gronkowski left.
Everyone thought the Patriots were rolling with Jarret Stidham and Brian Hoyer after the departure of Tom Brady. The thought, however, was thrown out the window when New England brought in a former MVP in Cam Newton. Perhaps Bill Belichick switches the narrative even further and gives Newton another weapon to work with. After all, Greg Olsen, a tight end, was Newton’s favorite target during the 2015-16 season when he captained the Carolina Panthers to Super Bowl 50 (Olsen was targeted 124 times that season). Whatever the direction, the Patriots need an influx of offensive talent. Njoku potentially provides that and gives New England more solidified depth ahead of Devin Asiasi and Dalton Keene, who were both 2020 NFL Draft selections.
New York Jets
Copy and paste the first sentence that was stated about New England but replace it with New York. The Jets need more weapons as well. Specifically, they need potential long-term weapons for their potential long-term quarterback in Sam Darnold. Specifically, they need a tight end as 30-year-old Ryan Griffin was the leader among tight ends on the team in yards (320) and touchdowns (five). A productive tight end like Njoku would give Darnold another weapon but would give Adam Gase a weapon at a position he is not used to having. When looking at 2016 to 2019, the most productive tight end Gase coached was in 2017 when he was the head coach of the Miami Dolphins (Julius Thomas collected 388 yards and three touchdowns). Njoku is younger and potentially much more explosive should his potential be tapped into.
Green Bay Packers
While Green Bay selected a tight end in the 2020 NFL Draft (Cincinnati’s Josiah Deguara in the third round), they did not select a wide receiver like many thought they would (and arguably should) have. Bringing in Njoku gives Aaron Rodgers another potential target in addition to the wide receiver tandem that includes Davante Adams, Allen Lazard, Devin Funchess and Marquez Valdes-Scantling. While Green Bay has not been known, over the past few years, to utilize heavy tight end usage on offense (Jimmy Graham), Njoku is young enough to allow Green Bay to mold him into a player who can catch the ball all over the field as opposed to solely in the end zone.
Rodgers is getting up there in age, and Green Bay decided to select the heir-apparent to him in Jordan Love with their 2020 first-round selection. Should they shoot for one last hurrah with Rodgers, it is best to throw as many weapons on the field as possible for the 36-year-old to utilize.