Should the Jaguars Consider Trading for Browns TE David Njoku?
For the last several seasons, the Jacksonville Jaguars have been seeking a player who can give them some kind of production at the tight end position. From Julius Thomas to Austin Seferian-Jenkins to Geoff Swaim, the Jaguars have swung and missed more than a few times.
But could 2020 be different? Jacksonville is entering the season with maybe the most talented tight end group it has had in years, but questions loom at nearly every spot.
Tyler Eifert is a former Pro Bowler but he has just one complete season of health under his belt. Josh Oliver is an enticing, athletic tight end who was drafted in the third round just a year ago, but his rookie season was defined by injuries. James O'Shaughnessy had the best start to his career through the first quarter of the season last year, but an ACL season in Week 5 has changed his projections for 2020. Finally, sixth-round rookie Tyler Davis is the team's latest rookie investment at the position, but he is entering the league following a quiet year at Georgia Tech.
So with a talented, albeit non-safe, tight end room, could the Jaguars still be looking to add at the position? If the team's decision-makers were to make a move in that direction, one intriguing option could be Cleveland Browns tight end David Njoku.
ESPN's Adam Schefter was the first to report Njoku, 23, wants out of Cleveland. Schefter said Friday the fourth-year tight end and his agent Drew Rosenhaus had requested a trade from the Browns, which comes on the heels of the Browns signing free agent Austin Hooper to one of the largest contracts for a tight end in NFL history.
With Njoku, whose $6.4 million fifth-year option was exercised earlier this offseason, now likely on the open market, it is fair for most offenses to wonder if they should look to add the 2017 first-rounder. Njoku has had a rough go of it in Cleveland, but would a change of scenery help the athletic tight end find production?
In three seasons, Njoku has just 93 catches for 1,066 yards (11.5 yards per catch) and nine touchdowns in 36 games, though almost the entirety of the production came in Njoku's first two seasons. Still, it is clear Njoku has upside thanks to his athletic profile, which includes a 4.64 40-yard dash. For context, here is Njoku's complete athletic testing per Mockdraftable.
When wondering if Njoku makes sense for the Jaguars, the first question must be about potential compensation. Jacksonville has nine picks in the 2021 NFL Draft so in the event they do want to acquire Njoku, or any other player, they could bear to part with a pick or potentially two.
What would it take to strike a deal with the Browns? Chances are they won't place a low price tag on Njoku considering the fact they are high enough on him to have picked up his option. New head coach Kevin Stefanski values tight ends in his offensive scheme perhaps more than any other coach, also, meaning the Browns could still have a big role envisioned for Njoku.
Would it then be worth for the Jaguars to trade away a top-100 pick for Njoku? It is hard to make the argument they should strike a deal if that is the eventual asking price considering Njoku's production, or lack thereof, and contract situation.
Also factoring into the equation is an already full tight ends room in Jacksonville. Eifert, Oliver and O'Shaughnessy all have legitimate questions surrounding their short- and long-term reliability from a health perspective, but the Jaguars are high on the group.
Jacksonville thought enough of Oliver to make him the highest-drafted tight end since the team selected Marcedes Lewis in 2006, and the second highest-drafted tight end in team history. O'Shaughnessy left a big impression on the staff before his ACL injury, while Eifert has experience with offensive coordinator Jay Gruden and will likely be tasked with becoming one of the offense's leaders.
While Njoku's talent likely matches or exceeds that of each tight end in Jacksonville, the Jaguars could view the position group as a unit they already have enough pieces at. They could always look to upgrade it, just maybe not via a trade.
With that said, tight ends are highly valued in Gruden's offensive scheme. If there was any year that makes schematic sense for the Jaguars to stockpile on the position, it would be 2020.
"I think I know how important the tight end position is because if you look at our successful teams in Cincinnati and in Washington, when Jordan Reed and Vernon Davis played with the Redskins, we were pretty good on offense, really, especially on third down and in the red zone," Gruden said in May.
"When those guys didn’t play, you were asked to replace them with some younger guys who aren’t quite as athletic or gifted as those guys. It’s difficult down there. You can double receivers all you want to, it’s hard to double tight ends and tight ends really are a key component down there in the red zone and on third down, and they’re a quarterback’s best friend. You know, the passes don’t have to be 25 yards down the field. They can be option routes, choice routes, inbreaking routes, you know, quicker type element passes if you have that tight end."
"And I think that adding Tyler Eifert, he’s done that, he’s run the option route with a fly, he’s lined up outside. He makes the defense show their hand a little bit. Who’s covering him? If it’s man to man, the safety’s got him, you know. So, the quarterback knows if this is man to man, I know where to go with the football. We can work a matchup either to DJ [Chark Jr.], or Chris [Conley], or Dede [Westbrook], or even Tyler [Eifert], or the running back. So, having a tight end is critical."
So, should the Jaguars consider trading for Njoku? It all really depends on what the Browns are asking for. If it's for a relatively early mid-round pick, then it likely won't be worth it considering Jacksonville wouldn't be able to generate the volume to each of its tight ends to justify the investment.
But the Jaguars are not a team that can turn down the chance to become more talented, especially not entering 2020. If Njoku's price is driven down at any point, it could be a risk worth taking.