Tight end David Njoku is eligible to become a free agent in March.
He doesn’t want to go anywhere.
“I love it here. I love it here to the core,” he said Monday as the Browns held exit interviews after their 8-9 season concluded Sunday. “I honestly want to be here for the rest of my career, so my agent and the Browns are still in talks, we’re still negotiating, figuring out what we can do, and we’ll go from there.”
Njoku, 25, was the No. 29 pick in 2017 and just finished the fifth year on his rookie contract. He made $6 million this year and will expect a raise.
He caught 36 passes for 475 yards and a team-high four touchdowns. It was his best statistical year since 2018, when he caught 56 passes for 639 yards and four touchdowns.
“David is a guy over the course of the last couple of seasons who has shown great growth as a player and as a person,” coach Kevin Stefanski said Friday. “The way he is playing on the field and the things that we are asking him to do, I think he is doing a really nice job. I think the tape speaks for itself.
“He has grown as a professional. He is still a young man so he is continuing to grow as a person, as well.”
Njoku wasn’t happy in 2020 after the Browns signed Austin Hooper to a four-year, $42 million contract as a free agent and drafted Harrison Bryant. Njoku requested a trade, but general manager Andrew Berry viewed him as too valuable.
Njoku had a change of heart and declared at the beginning of this season his desire to stay. He said his teammates are happy about the possibility.
“They obviously hear about it, they’re excited and hopeful that we do come to an agreement and I end up staying here,” he said. “We’re all excited. These are exciting times. It’s a lot of blood, sweat and tears that was put into these last few years. And I owe it all to God and just got to keep working. I’m just going to go back to the drawing board, figure out what I have to perfect, what I didn’t do right or what I can do better and get back to work.”
STRETCH IT OUT
Safety John Johnson III wants the Browns to roll out the yoga mats.
“The biggest thing for me was just being proactive about our health, our bodies, like soft-tissue stuff,” Johnson said of his exit interview with Berry and Stefanski. “I think we can get a yoga instructor in here to work on our flexibility. I think our relationship with the training staff could be a whole lot better.
“Just try to implement a plan for each individual guy on the team. I think that goes a long way. I think sport science is huge, just like doing vision training, hand-eye coordination, balance. I think all that stuff plays a part in staying healthy and just being a better overall team.”
Stefanski is open to the ideas and committed to trying to eliminate as many injuries as possible.
“We are always going to be searching for new and better ways to do things,” he said. “Want to look at some of the soft-tissue injuries that we had and prevent those ones that are preventable, if you can. I am always looking for our players to chime in on suggestions and definitely want to look into all of that stuff.”
Nick Chubb finished second in the league with 1,259 rushing yards. The Colts’ Jonathan Taylor won the title with 1,811.
“It says a lot about our team, about our offensive line, those guys work hard for us up front, they block a lot of big guys, have stacked boxes, they still plug their way through, get to the second level and hit the linebackers and block defensive linemen very well,” Chubb said. “I think it’s a team effort getting second. It’s not first, so it’s not the best, but it’s definitely something being through everything we’ve been through this year, not even having Coach Stump (Mitchell), O-line missing games, we haven’t had Jack (Conklin, right tackle) all year pretty much, so it says a lot about this team and how well we run the ball.”
He also finished second in 2019 with 1,494 yards but isn’t obsessed with winning a title.
“If it happens, it happens, I’m just going to keep doing what I do,” Chubb said.
IN THE MOMENT
Stefanski talked to Johnson after he tweeted “RUN THE DAMN BALL” during the loss to the Packers while he was on the COVID-19 reserve list.
“He said something to me about it, he just didn’t really like that it was public,” Johnson said. “He wanted to keep comments like that in-house.
“But it wasn’t anything bad. Everybody has opinions and feelings and I was watching the game as a fan and it was just kinda like, it was early in the game, Chubb had six touches for 80 yards, that’s all I saw, so I was just like, get him the ball. So it wasn’t anything personal or bad. But we chopped it up.”
Stefanski wants his players to proceed with caution on social media.
“You just have to be careful with what you put out there because once it is out there, it is out there forever,” he said.
The Chicago Bears fired general manager Ryan Pace and requested permission to interview two members of the Browns front office: vice president of football operations Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and vice president of player personnel Glenn Cook.
Adofo-Mensah is in his second year with the Browns and ninth in the NFL after working as a portfolio manager.
Cook is in his second year in the role after four years as assistant director of pro scouting. He’s been in the NFL for 11 years.
Stefanski expects his staff to remain mainly intact.
“I do not anticipate any major changes,” he said.
** The Browns signed eight players from the practice squad to reserve/futures contracts: tight ends Miller Forristall and Nick Guggemos, guards Hjalte Froholdt and David Moore, tackle Alex Taylor, fullback Johnny Stanton IV, defensive end Curtis Weaver and defensive back Nate Meadors.
** Linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah left the game Sunday after he got kicked in the shin.
“I never had nothing freaky like that happen before,” he said.
** Cornerback Greg Newsome called himself the biggest Cavaliers fan on the team and said he gets to as many games as he can.