Should the Jets pursue David Njoku as another option for Sam Darnold?
Njoku’s talent has never been doubted, he is a physical specimen who is entering the prime of his career. He was a first round selection out of Miami in the 2017 NFL Draft (#29 overall). He has recently asked for a trade. He feels the Brown sort of gave up on him by signing Austin Hooper to a huge 4 year $44 million contract with $23 million guaranteed.
As per Rotoworld:
Njoku’s agent Drew Rosenhaus is also involved, saying “it is in David’s best interest to find a new team at this time,” despite the Browns wanting to keep him. Njoku’s future was always in question after the Browns signed Austin Hooper to a four-year contract with $23 million guaranteed. Kevin Stefanski does have a history of using a high rate of two tight end sets, as the Vikings used 12 personnel on 34 percent of their snaps last season, the second highest mark in the league. Njoku, the No. 29 overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, played just four games last season due to injury and has totaled 96 receptions for 1,066 yards and nine touchdowns in 36 career contests. It frequently takes tight ends, even those selected in the first-round, time to make an impact in the NFL, as many hit their stride on their second team or second contract. Njoku might be next on that list. The Browns do have some insurance at the position after spending a fourth-round selection on TE Harrison Bryant.
With the Browns adding two tight ends in the offseason it seems like the writing is on the wall in Cleveland for Njoku. The injury Njoku suffered in 2018 was to his wrist so it didn’t affect his movement skills or his athleticism.
Still young, Njoku was raw coming out of Miami. Even Cleveland knew he was more of an athlete than a well trained, technically efficient tight end. Now with a few years under his belt Njoku might be poised to have a breakout season.
Let’s look who the Jet have at tight end right now.
Herndon is another Miami TE product who came to the Jets the year after Njoku was drafted. They obviously know one another which could make a transition to the Jets much easier for Njoku.
Herndon busted onto the scene after a predictable slow start to his career. Through his first 5 games as a rookie Herndon had only 5 receptions on 7 targets for 47 yards and zero TDs. Early in the 2nd half of the 6th game against the Indianapolis Colts (a 42-32 win) Herndon took a pass 32 yards for a TD. He added a 24 yard catch in that same game. Even though he had just 2 receptions it was a springboard for the rest of the year.
The remaining 10 games Herndon had 30 receptions for 399 yards and 3 TDs. That doesn’t sound like much, but it is extremely impressive when you realize few TE ever have a good first year in the NFL. Tony Gonzalez had only 368 yards and 2 TDs his first year. Antonio Gates had a similar 389 yards and 2 TDs, and Jason Witten had 347 yards and 1 TD.
Herndon went on to have a lost year in 2019 playing in only 1 game. If healthy the jury is still out on whether he can pick up where he left off in 2018. Was that year a fluke? He has now lost his confidence? Whether Herndon comes back strong or not has nothing to do with the Jets possibly picking up another weapon. The more quality targets for Sam the better.
Griffin is entering his 8th year in the league after a 13 start, 34 reception for 320 yards and 5 TDs for the Jets in 2019. That effort landed Griffin a 3 year $10.8 million contract with $4 million guaranteed. So Griffin will also be on the roster no matter what else happens which also makes little difference to the Jets in a hypothetical quest to land Njoku.
One of the keys to Griffin’s signing is his solid character and Sam Darnold. He said this about Griffin, “Right when Ryan got in here, I knew the kind of guy he was, first and foremost. I knew he was going to work hard and do all the right things off the field. Then once he got on the field, I knew we had a special guy in this locker room and a special player.” Solid character guys are needed on every team.
The Jets are the 3rd team in Brown’s 6 year career. He will be 28 in the 2020 season. Brown is a blocking tight end with only a grand total of 42 receptions in his career. He has never had a year with as much as 17 receptions or 130 yards. Brown has a 2020 non-guaranteed cap number of $750.000. With other linemen who could double as a blocking tight end Brown has little value if the Jets wanted to add another player.
Wesco is more of a cult figure at GGN than a viable weapon for the Jets. Another questionable pick by former GM Mike Maccagnan, Wesco had a grand total of 2 receptions for 47 yards despite being active for all 16 games and the injury to starting TE Chris Herndon. Wesco projects as more of an “H” back than a traditional TE, but the Jets don’t use a lead blocker that often. He did have a single carry for two yards, but that doesn’t increase his odds of making the team in 2020.
Wesco still has practice squad eligibility left considering his light workload in 2019. He might probably need to show something extra in camp to keep a roster spot. Joe Douglas didn’t draft Wesco so he has no ties to him whatsoever.
Travis is another lightly used TE who is 27 years old, entering his 5th year in the league. Through 4 years Travis has 14 receptions for 142 yards,and zero TDs playing for the Colts and Chiefs. He is not a downfield threat and has caught a mere 48.3% of his career targets.
With the Jets receiving corps having weak spots at the moment the team could use 12 personnel (1 RB-2TE-2WR) looks more often to mitigate the lack of experience outside. With Herndon (back to full health) alongside Njoku the Jets would possibly have one of the best young TE tandems in the NFL.
Basically it comes down to what type of package the Browns would want to let Njoku go in a trade. They initially stated that they would want a first round pick but that was quickly changed knowing that not a single team would offer anything close to that.
Njoku is scheduled to make $1,763,910 this year with his fifth year option (guaranteed for injury only) next year at $6,013,000. That would not be too bad if Njoku shows real growth in 2020. There are a lot of players competing for targets in Cleveland.
The Jets would offer more opportunities for Njoku to produce, and Sam Darnold showed some nice rhythm working with Herndon back in 2018 from the TE position.
Quality tight ends are a big asset to a young QB. Two tight ends it could tie up the safeties to give Mims and Perriman single coverage.
I think the Jets could offer the fifth round pick the Jets received from the Giants trade for Leonard Williams along with possibly trading positions in the 3rd round with the Browns if the Jets have a worse record.
Another possibility would be to trade Njoku to the Jets for ILB Avery Williamson. Williamson is on the last year of his contract just like Njoku, and the Browns currently have Sione Takitaki listed as the starting MLB with rookie Jacob Phillips manning the SAM position. Williamson could play both positions well. Takitaki is a Draft pick from a past general manager so you have no idea what the current group thinks of that player.
If I had a choice I would prefer the later possibility as it would remove $6.5 million from the Jets salary cap while keeping our Draft picks and giving Sam another viable option. We could wait to see how things progress before any contract negotiations might begin.
I am interested in knowing what you think about this.