Five years ago, the Cleveland Browns drafted David Njoku. With the tight end set to hit free agency for the first time, they're not letting him leave.
The Browns on Monday placed the franchise tag on Njoku, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported, per a source. The team has since announced the news.
The move guarantees Njoku $10.931 million for the 2022 season, but it might just be a placeholder for a multi-year deal. The Browns and Njoku's agent have been in long-term negotiations on an extension, Rapoport added.
NFL Network's Tom Pelissero reported on NFL NOW that the Browns have had an offer on the table for Njoku that pays in the $13 million per year range, which would be top-five TE money. Teams have until the July 15 deadline to sign franchise-tagged players to long-term deals.
Njoku expressed a desire to remain in Cleveland ahead of the final year of his rookie contract and will get his wish for at least another season. The 25-year-old had 36 receptions for 475 yards and four touchdowns in 16 games in 2021, but his production has waned since putting up career-high numbers (56 receptions, 639 yards, 4 TDs) as a bona fide starter in 2018. The Browns brought along Austin Hooper on a free-agent deal ahead of last season and look to maintain a strong TE room with Njoku and Harrison Bryant going forward.
A first-round selection by the Browns in the 2017 NFL Draft, Njoku has totaled 148 receptions for 1,754 yards and 15 touchdowns through five seasons. Njoku was ranked 94th in NFL.com's Gregg Rosenthal's Top 101 Free Agents of 2022.
Rapoport later reported Monday that the Browns are not expected to an exercise the option on the final year of fullback Andy Janovich's contract, which will make him a free agent next week.