The biggest story today in Cleveland Browns news is that the team has decided to franchise tag veteran Tight End David Njoku.
This comes after weeks of speculation the team had an interest in keeping Njoku around for the 2022 season.
The current cost in the NFL for franchising a veteran Tight End is roughly $11 million– the average of the top-five TE contracts in the NFL right now.
It’s what the Browns will pay Njoku unless they can get a deal done before the start of the season– which could still be on the table.
The #Browns and David Njoku’s agent Malki Kawa have been in long-term negotiations on an extension. The hope is the tag is a place holder for an eventual deal. https://t.co/YRDPQJUNWZ
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 7, 2022
While many fans are happy to see that the longtime Brown will suit up for another season, there’s a question of whether Njoku is worth the franchise tag.
There’s a handful of tight ends in the league who are going to make a fraction of Njoku’s salary in 2022, while having arguably better statistics over the last few seasons.
Not to mention the team already must pay Austin Hooper around $13 million this season, whether they trade, cut or keep him.
But regardless of what fans might think, Andrew Berry and Co. have decided the price tag is worth keeping Njoku around, at least for now.
Who Else have the Brown Franchise Tagged?
It may come as a surprise to fans that it is only the second time a Browns player has been franchised since the team returned to the NFL in 1999.
The first and only other player to be franchised was another fan favorite, Phil Dawson.
In 2011, the Browns gave PK Phil Dawson the franchise tag, valued at $3.25m.
In 2022, the Browns gave TE David Njoku the franchise tag, valued at $10.8m.
These are the only two times the Browns have used the franchise tag.
— Tony Grossi (@TonyGrossi) March 7, 2022
The kicker was franchised in 2011 for $3.25 million (worth roughly $4 million today) after many thought he would walk into free agency.
This came after more than a decade of Dawson making high-level kicks for the Browns– at the time he sat with the NFL’s ninth-best kicking average at 83.2 percent, 252 connects of 303 career attempts.
Why Haven’t the Browns Franchise Tagged More Players?
Franchise tags are tricky and there is a lot to consider.
While franchising makes negotiations simpler and does guarantee a player a high salary, it can come at some heavy costs.
Sometimes players truly do not want to stay on the team, even at a high salary, and forcing them to stick around could result in poor play and morale.
Offer times the minimum salary for franchising is too much for a team to swallow and they simply let the player walk.
The Browns have probably taken into account both of these factors many times over the past two decades, and the only time the organization thought it was worth the risk was in 2011… and today.
It should also be noted that less than half of teams exercise the franchise tag each year on average.
Why Franchise Tag Njoku?
Fans can only speculate.
While there are plenty of reasons to keep Njoku around (freak athlete, huge upside, familiar with the locker room) there are also plenty of reasons Browns could have let him walk (underutilized, demands trades, all of his drops).
The best guess might be this: the Browns decided they really want Njoku on the team next season but weren’t confident they would get a deal done, so decided $11 million is worth keeping him around.
There is obviously a lot more that goes into these kinds of decisions, but it’s a simple explanation for now.
Whatever the true reasons may be, fans can at least rejoice in having Njoku in the locker room this season.
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