The Cardinals have been mentioned as a team that could be interested in pursuing tight end David Njoku, who recently asked the Cleveland Browns to trade him after changing agents and hiring Drew Rosenhaus.
Should they? Every team does its due diligence when evaluating players, so it would be shocking if general manager Steve Keim hasn’t discussed the possibility with his staff and head coach Kliff Kingsbury. However, with an enigmatic talent like Njoku — who has had issues with dropped passes — the Cardinals should be wary.
A first-round pick in 2017, Njoku had two decent seasons in the dysfunction that defines the Browns, before playing only four games last season because of a wrist injury.
He had just five receptions for 41 yards and one touchdown after posting 32-386-12.1-4 and 56-639-11.4-4 in his first two seasons.
There were reported issues with the coaching staff last season, but they have since departed. Current Browns general manager Andrew Berry replaced John Dorsey in that role this offseason, but he was on the staff when Njoku was drafted.
Berry is so strongly in Njoku’s corner that he exercised the non-guaranteed fifth-year option of $6.013 million this spring on Njoku’s contract.
That begs the question: Why does he want out?
From a talent standpoint, Njoku in Arizona would provide yet another target for 2019 Offensive Rookie of the Year quarterback Kyler Murray.
The Cardinals’ three returning tight ends are Maxx Williams, Dan Arnold and Darrell Daniels. They also signed former Los Angeles Chargers converted wide receiver Dylan Cantrell, who played under Kingsbury at Texas Tech when he was the head coach there.
Charles Clay had 18 receptions for 237 yards (13.2 average) and one touchdown last year, but left as an unrestricted free agent and is currently not yet signed to an NFL roster. Williams caught 15 passes for 202 yards (13.5) and a touchdown, while Arnold became a red-zone target of Murray after being claimed off waivers Dec. 5 from the New Orleans Saints.
In three games, with one start, Arnold was targeted 10 times and had six receptions for 102 yards (17.0) and two scores. Daniels played 11 games mostly on special teams. He had 47 snaps on offense and 219 (47.6 percent) on special teams.
The team’s tight ends did not play significant snaps last season. Clay played 396 (26.4 per game, 37.8 percent), Williams 488 (30.5 per game, 46.5 percent) and Arnold 104 (34.7 per game) despite not joining the team until late in the season.
Keim and Co. will have to balance what their expectations are for the current group in contrast to what it would cost in a draft choice to acquire a player that wasn’t part of the virtual offseason program and whose salary is $1.76 million this year, with $430,000 of it guaranteed, and over $6 million next year.
Williams is under contract for $2.85 million this year and $2.55 million in 2021, while Arnold’s salary is $750,000 this year and he will be a free agent in 2021.
The reality is, Njoku is no sure thing and could potentially disrupt the chemistry that is building on the Cardinals offense. However, giving up no more than a fourth- or fifth-round conditional pick might be tempting in order to kick the tires and subsequently let the air out if doesn’t prove worthy.