Andrew Berry turned the NFL on its head with the monster contract doled out to Deshaun Watson.
But that wasn’t the only deal that left his peers shaking their heads at the Cleveland Browns GM.
David Njoku’s 4-year, $56.75 million extension made him one of the highest-paid tight ends in the league.
The #Browns and franchise tagged TE David Njoku have reached an agreement in principle on a large new 4-year, $56.75M contract extension, sources tell me and @TomPelissero. He gets $28M guaranteed at signing on the deal that averages $14.1875M per year, the fifth highest paid TE.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) May 27, 2022
It might have been the first time Njoku ranked among the leaders at his position in anything.
But the deal reset the tight-end market and led to a couple of big-name free agents settling for the franchise tag.
It was a rare instance of paying for potential rather than production.
There was and is no doubt Njoku was among the best-skilled tight ends, but stats is what usually gets a player paid.
Bill Belichick just said this of David Njoku:
"After Ozzie [Newsome], probably the best tight end the Browns have ever had."
— Andrew Siciliano (@AndrewSiciliano) October 12, 2022
And Njoku’s were lacking over the years as well as in Kevin Stefanski’s crowded tight end room.
But extrapolated stats and Berry’s plans for the roster led to a big payday for Njoku.
And the 2022 version of David Njoku might earn that deal with his first Pro Bowl appearance.
David Njoku: Big Dawg
Cleveland went into last season with 3 tight ends on the active roster.
But the big contract man was Austin Hooper, and he put a serious dent in Njoku’s workload.
Hooper plays for the Tennessee Titans this season, leaving Njoku alone with Harrison Bryant.
And if there was any doubt as to who would benefit from Hooper’s leaving, just look at the 2022 targets to date.
Only three TEs rank top-5 in route share and target share:
– Mark Andrews (1st, 1st)
– Travis Kelce (2nd, 4th)
– David Njoku (3rd, 5th)
Njoku has 70 yards in 3 straight games. Only 4 other TEs have accomplished this feat over the past 3 seasons – Kelce, Andrews, Waller, Kittle.
— Scott Barrett (@ScottBarrettDFB) October 13, 2022
Jacoby Brissett delivered 29 passes so far to Njoku, compared to 15 in Bryant’s direction.
Njoku continues to bolster quarterback ratings, with Brissett earning a 119.7 rating when throwing to “The Chief.”
And that is consistent with the last two seasons (110.3, 113.3).
David Njoku has been fantastic. Just fantastic.
— Hayden Grove (@H_Grove) October 9, 2022
Njoku is on the field for 90 percent of the team’s offensive snaps this year, compared to 64% last year.
And it is not just his on-field presence that continues to grow.
Team leaders like Brissett and Myles Garrett are as likely to mention and share microphones with Njoku as anyone else.
David Njoku: Pro Bowler?
Targets and presence are nice, but Njoku has to turn those chances into stats to turn the heads of his peers.
And so far, he is doing exactly that with top-5 numbers in the biggest categories.
His 24 receptions are the 5th-most among tight ends, as are his 289 receiving yards.
If Pro Bowl voters are looking for quality over quantity, Njoku’s 3rd-best 156 yards-after-completion and 17 first downs look good.
David Njoku this season:
🟤 79.4 PFF grade (3rd)
🟠 81.9 REC grade (2nd)
🟤 24 REC (5th)
🟠 289 REC YDs (5th)
🟤 156 YAC (3rd)
🟠 5 contested catches (1st)
🟤 17 first downs (3rd)
The breakout year is real 😤 pic.twitter.com/FZL5XtZGj4
— PFF CLE Browns (@PFF_Browns) October 12, 2022
And his 5 contested catches top all tight ends across the league.
Pro Football Focus is impressed, giving Njoku their 2nd-highest receiving grade and ranking him third-best overall.
Njoku remains an avid and willing blocker in the running game and even took a pair of handoffs already this season.
— Chief David Njoku (@David_Njoku80) October 11, 2022
All-in-all, Njoku’s efforts are worthy of Pro Bowl consideration.
But can he shine enough to beat the perennial favorites like Travis Kelce and Mark Andrews for a spot on the team?
Time will tell, but it is safe to say David Njoku is having a Pro Bowl-type season.