The Cleveland Browns’ athletic tight end David Njoku has requested a trade before training camp begins, and apparently the Cowboys are interested. This may come as a bit of a surprise after the Cowboys gave Blake Jarwin a four year, $22 million extension that seemed to crown him as the new starting tight end going forward.
But if a talent like Njoku becomes available, it changes the conversation, especially when Mike McCarthy and Kellen Moore are the ones running the offense. Coming out of Miami in the 2017 draft, Njoku was considered to be in the top tier of his position class alongside OJ Howard and Evan Engram.
Despite displaying his freak athleticism throughout the draft process, Njoku was the third tight end drafted in the first round by the Browns. Since then, he’s played under four different offensive playcallers in three seasons, managing to be productive before missing most of 2019 with a broken wrist. Prior to the 2019 season, Njoku never missed a game and had amassed 88 catches for 1,025 yards and eight touchdowns. His athleticism made him a viable downfield threat, and as Njoku grew from his rookie year to his second year, he looked ready to take the next step into a legitimate weapon.
Of course, the injury derailed all of that, but he was still expected to be heavily featured in the Browns’ offense under new head coach Kevin Stefanski, who utilizes 12 personnel at a very high clip. But now he wants out, and the Cowboys could grab a tight end right on the verge of becoming a star.
Njoku’s profile makes him an obvious fit for the Cowboys, as both McCarthy and Moore value big, athletic tight ends. For McCarthy, he’s found a lot of production from tight ends Jermichael Finley, Jared Cook, and Jimmy Graham in his days in Green Bay, while Moore’s roots in the Boise State offense has traditionally sought to make use of 12 personnel when possible, flexing athletic tight ends out wide to function as wide receivers.
To that end, Njoku is basically the kind of tight end that Moore would build in Madden create-a-player. Standing at 6’4” and 246 pounds, Njoku runs a 4.64 40-yard dash, making him a unique prospect. In Moore’s offense, which we know features a high amount of pre-snap motion, Njoku can start out as an in-line tight end and flex out into the slot, effectively becoming another wide receiver and potentially getting a favorable matchup against a linebacker or smaller slot cornerback.
While the acquisition of Njoku would certainly mean a steep decline in snaps for Jarwin, the two can still function together. Landing CeeDee Lamb alongside established receivers Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup has everyone expecting the Cowboys to use significantly more 11 personnel than they have in the past, but landing Njoku would still allow Dallas to diversify their personnel usage, as having two athletic pass catching tight ends would increase the value of 12 personnel as well.
From an X’s and O’s standpoint, there are few reasons not to go after a talent such as Njoku. But the big question, of course, is the price to get him. Cleveland reportedly doesn’t want to move him, as they just exercised his fifth-year option in April, but trade demands can lead to players being dealt.
The Browns will surely want to get as much as they can in return, but odds are the market won’t be too big for him, especially given the mere four games he played in last year. Cleveland reportedly wants a first-round pick, but that is pure fantasy. Dallas is likely to have a wealth of middle-late round picks going into next year, thanks to the talented players they lost in free agency this year, and could seek to create a package of those picks to get Njoku.
The Cowboys (will probably) have the draft capital to make a trade like this materialize without mortgaging their future, and Njoku would be an ideal fit for the team’s top two offensive minds. If Lamb’s selection ignited the #Team40Burger camp, then a deal for Njoku would only intensify the dreams of a high-powered, high-scoring Cowboys offense heading into 2020.