Tight end David Njoku had a change of heart.
He no longer wants to change teams.
As the veterans were finally allowed to enter Browns headquarters Saturday after an offseason program held entirely virtually and three negative tests for COVID-19 in four days since reporting to Berea, Njoku took back the trade request made in early July.
“I’m all in Cleveland. Time to work,” he tweeted.
I’m all in Cleveland. Time to work.
— Chief David Njoku (@David_Njoku80) August 1, 2020
Njoku, the No. 29 pick in 2017, had apparently been bothered by what will likely be a secondary role after the Browns signed free agent and two-time Pro Bowl tight end Austin Hooper to a four-year, $42 million contract in March. He changed agents to power broker Drew Rosenhaus, who informed the Browns his new client wanted to be traded before training camp.
The Browns, led by first-time general manager Andrew Berry, didn’t budge from their position that they value Njoku and believe he can make a significant impact in new coach Kevin Stefanski’s tight end-heavy offense.
“David Njoku has had some good meetings with the new Browns organization including GM Andrew Berry and he has decided to give the team his full commitment right now and go from there,” Rosenhaus said Saturday in a text message to The Chronicle-Telegram.
Stefanski said Thursday he hadn’t talked to Njoku since the trade request but was looking forward to coaching him as training camp gets going.
“My stance hasn’t changed. The organization’s stance hasn’t changed in that we believe in David, excited to work with him,” Stefanski said. “I will get to finally be in the same room as him this weekend as he is coming in for physicals and then get out on the field with him Monday. Excited to work with him.”
Njoku, 24, has been unable to consistently turn his impressive athleticism into production, totaling 93 catches for 1,066 yards and nine touchdowns in 36 games, including 20 starts. He’s coming off a lost season, as he broke a wrist Week 2 against the Jets, missed 10 games and clashed with then-coach Freddie Kitchens about when he was ready to return. He finished the year with five catches for 41 yards and a touchdown in four games.
His best year was 2018, when he caught 56 passes for 639 yards and four touchdowns.
The Browns also have fourth-round rookie Harrison Bryant, Pharaoh Brown and Stephen Carlson at tight end, but they picked up the fifth-year option in Njoku’s rookie contract for 2021, although it’s only guaranteed for injury. Njoku is scheduled to make $1.76 million in 2020 and a little more than $6 million in 2021.
The veterans were set for physicals and equipment testing Saturday and Sunday. They’ll begin a period of strength and conditioning and walkthroughs Monday, joining the quarterbacks and rookies, who are four days ahead in the schedule.
The Browns have to be happy with the results of the virus tests after the players convened from across the country. Only three players were placed on the new reserve/COVID-19 list, which is for players who test positive or were in close proximity to someone who has.
The team isn’t permitted to disclose the reason for being on the list, but punter Jamie Gillan told NFL Network he was surprised to test positive for the second time in July. Third-year running Dontrell Hilliard and undrafted rookie safety Jovante Moffatt are also on the list.
The roster is at 80 players after receiver Tony Brown, linebacker Jermaine Grace, defensive end George Obinna and defensive tackle Justin Zimmer (non-football injury) were waived Friday. Brown was claimed by the Giants on Saturday.