Njoku, who was selected by the Browns with the No. 29 pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, was set to become an unrestricted free agent at 4 p.m. next Wednesday and the team had until Tuesday to tag him.
In 2021, the tight end marked one of the best seasons of his five-year career, recording 36 receptions and 475 receiving yards. Njoku led the Browns with four receiving touchdowns and also recorded the longest reception by an NFL tight end last season after a 71-yard touchdown grab against the Los Angeles Chargers in October.
The former Miami Hurricane totaled 1,754 yards and 15 touchdowns across his career and has been an essential part of the Browns’ run game using his 6-foot-4, 246-pound frame to clear rushing lanes.
Cleveland won 19 games in the last two years, the most in a two-season period for the team since 1988-89, and Njoku told the team he wanted to return after experiencing the successes the team had achieved over the last two seasons. The tight end, who was on the Browns team that went winless in 2017, said he believes Cleveland is capable of being even better.
“It’s a lot of blood, sweat and tears that was put into these last few years,” Njoku said on Jan. 10, per the team. “I owe it all to God. We just have to keep working … I love it here. I love it here to the core.”
The 25-year-old continues to improve his game season after season and was commended by coaches for his efforts — 2021 was his best season since 2018, and the team said his receiving and touchdown totals have increased every year since 2019.
“He’s come a long way, both on and off the field,” Browns Executive Vice President and GM Andrew Berry said Tuesday at the NFL Combine. “That’s a credit to him and how hard he worked. David as a player is 25 years old, and I think he’s close to maturity. I think as his opportunities increase, his impact will as well.”
The team said Njoku is the first non-kicker to receive the franchise tag in Browns history.
USA TODAY reports Cleveland’s use of a non-exclusive franchise tag on the tight end will cost a projected $10.834 million next season, the average of the top five salaries among tight ends in the past five years, per OverTheCap.com.
Njoku will be allowed to negotiate with other teams, but Cleveland has the right to match any offer or receive two first-round draft picks if he were to sign elsewhere.
The Browns also announced three other moves along with the tight end’s franchise tag.
Cleveland tendered offensive linemen Blake Hance and Michael Dunn, along with wide receiver Ja’Marcus Bradley as exclusive rights free agents.
Players who are exclusive rights free agents are not permitted to negotiate with other teams, so Hance, Dunn and Bradley will be back with the Browns.
SB Nation reports the ERFA label applies to players who have less than three accrued seasons in the NFL and if the Browns make an offer to an ERFA, no other team would be able to sign the player.
New PointsBet Sportsbook users can make their first bets risk-free up to $2,000. If the bet loses, PointsBet will refund you in site credit. New users can lock in this offer NOW by clicking this link.
New DraftKings users can get up to a $1000 deposit bonus and receive a 20% first deposit match up to $1,000 when they sign up. New users can lock in this offer NOW by clicking this link.