The Cleveland Browns are betting big on David Njoku.
The franchise-tagged tight end agreed to a four-year, $56.75 million contract extension with $28 million guaranteed, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport.
The #Browns and franchise tagged TE David Njoku have reached an agreement in principle on a large new 4-year, $56.75M contract extension, sources tell me and @TomPelissero. He gets $28M guaranteed at signing on the deal that averages $14.1875M per year, the fifth highest paid TE.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) May 27, 2022
Rapoport reports Njoku will become the fifth-highest paid tight end in the NFL, though his $14.1875 annual income has him at fourth in OverTheCap's numbers.
The deal is virtually identical to deals signed in recent years by Travis Kelce, Mark Andrews and Dallas Goedert, who are all currently on four-year contracts worth between $56 million and $57.25 million. San Francisco 49ers All-Pro George Kittle remains the highest-paid tight end with his four-year, $75 million deal.
The Browns hit Njoku with the franchise tag earlier this offseason, which would have paid him $11 million this season.
Will David Njoku make the leap?
If you didn't think Njoku fits in with Kelce, Andrews and Goedert, you're probably not alone.
Kelce and Andrews each received first-team All-Pro honors in the last two seasons. Both posted 1,000-yard seasons last year, while Njoku's career high remains 639 receiving yards back in 2018. Goedert only posted 830 yards last season, but he presents value as a blocker well ahead of the others.
So Njoku is getting an elite tight end deal despite not yet being an elite tight end. He certainly has elite potential; that has basically been his narrative since the Browns selected him 29th overall in the 2017 NFL draft.
It's easy to find reasons why Njoku still hasn't hit that potential in five seasons as an NFL player. Injuries have been a significant issue, as he missed much of 2019 with a broken wrist and a chunk of 2020 with a knee injury. He has had to compete for targets and snaps with fellow tight end Austin Hooper, whom the Browns signed to a $44 million deal in 2020. And, of course, you may have heard about the team's issues at quarterback.
If you're the Browns, it's not hard to squint and see a burgeoning star in Njoku, who will turn 26 in July. He will enter this season as the team's clear No. 1 tight end after Hooper's release in March, though it remains to be seen if he will play a snap with Deshaun Watson in 2022.