If you read the title and your first thought was “can we just play George Kittle first,” you’re missing the point as well as ignoring a few important facts. Earlier in the offseason, the San Francisco 49ers pursued then Falcons tight end Austin Hooper in hopes of upgrading the position after Kittle. Since then, the 49ers added a pass-catcher via the first-round of the draft. If the goal is to continue to add players that can help and surround your quarterback with ample weapons, why not pick up the phone and make an offer to the Cleveland Browns for tight end David Njoku?
ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported Friday morning that Njoku asked for a trade. The Browns would like to keep him, but Drew Rosenhaus is Njoku’s agent, and he told the Browns his client wants a trade before training camp. Rosenhaus said, “it’s in David’s best interest to find a new team at this time.” That sounds like someone who won’t play another snap in Cleveland.
If the Browns trade Njoku—who is under contract for two more seasons—the team that lands him will have to pay his base salary in 2020, which is $1.7 million. In $2021, the Browns exercised his fifth-year option, which is just over six million. Knowing the 49ers will be thin at wide receiver after this offseason, Njoku could serve as a replacement. He’s more of a hybrid tight end/bigger dynamic slot receiver as it is. Njoku’s 2021 price tag may scare you off, but his talent is worth six million.
What is Cleveland asking price? The Browns reportedly want a first-round pick for Njoku. Cleveland is living in a fantasy if they think they can get more for Njoku than the Cardinals got for arguably the best wide receiver in the NFL. The Browns traded back into the first round of the 2017 draft to land Njoku, so they’re likely trying to regain that draft capital. His production hasn’t been there in the NFL. As a rookie, Njoku caught 32 passes for 286 yards and four touchdowns. The next year, he caught 56 passes for 639 yards and four touchdowns. A broken wrist in 2019 caused Njoku only to muster 41 yards receiving.
What would you be willing to give up for Njoku, knowing his contract? I’d happily give up a fourth-round pick. Again, the 49ers are in a position where if a team doesn’t like their offer, San Francisco doesn’t have to “force” a deal.