Browns tight end David Njoku requested a trade Friday afternoon. Reports indicate that the Brown would like to keep Njoku, but according to Njoku’s agent, Drew Rosenhaus, “It is in David’s best interest to find a new team at this time.”
Njoku’s role in the Browns offense figured to shrink after the Browns made Austin Hooper the highest-paid tight end in football. And if Friday’s trade request is any indication, Njoku prefers not to share targets at his position.
With that in mind, here are three tight end-needy teams that could engage the Browns in a trade for Njoku.
Green Bay Packers
Jimmy Graham caught 93 passes for 1083 yards during his two-season stint in Green Bay, and there’s no obvious replacement on the roster. Asking 36-year old Mercedes Lewis to match that production is unrealistic, and the rest of the Packers’ tight ends have caught a combined 21 career passes.
That’s not an ideal setup for Packers coach Matt LaFleur, who likes to call plays out of two tight-end formations. LaFleur was the Titans’ offensive coordinator in 2018, when Tennessee ran 30 percent of its plays from 12 personnel (one running back, two tight ends), which ranked third in the NFL. That number dropped to 20 percent when LaFleur got to Green Bay last season, but that could be attributed to the Packers’ lack of tight end depth.
Now they’re even thinner at that spot, and the Packers possess three fourth-round picks and two sixth-round picks in the 2021 draft. It’s worth calling the Browns and offering a few of those surplus draft picks.
New England Patriots
The Patriots drafted both Devin Asiasi and Dalton Keene in the third round of the 2020 NFL draft, but it’s unclear whether those rookies will be ready to play after the virtual offseason. Matt Lacosse, who has caught 40 passes in his five-year career, has caught more passes than any other tight end on New England’s roster.
Along with the need, the Patriots have a history of trading for disgruntled players and helping those players find success. Players like Darrell Revis and Jamie Collins revived their careers after signing in New England.
The question would be the price. After spending two third-round picks on tight ends in this past year, would the Patriots be willing to part with more draft capital?
The Texans’ tight-end room could use an upgrade, too. And like the Patriots, they telegraphed as much by spending a third-round pick on Kahale Warring from San Diego State.
The Texans targeted their tight ends on 20 percent of their pass plays last season, which ranked 15th in the NFL. That’s a high number considering their tight ends consisted of Darren Fells, who’s largely been a blocking tight end during his six-year career, and Jordan Akins, a 28-year-old who had never played in the NFL before 2018.
After trading Deandre Hopkins, the Texans could use a dynamic weapon like Njoku, who is familiar with Fells from Fells’ 2018 stint in Cleveland. Drafting a tight end this year might preclude the Texans from trading for Njoku, but again, the virtual offseason could be tricky for rookies to navigate.
Plus, we all know Bill O’Brien loves trading draft picks.