David Njoku wants to be with Cleveland Browns 'long term'

David Njoku's quiet 2019 morphed into a busy 2020 in March when his team signed the premier free agent at his position.

The Browns then doubled down on that move by drafting Florida Atlantic standout Harrison Bryant in April.

Hello, competition.

Njoku's representation responded by requesting a trade, but with little market for a decent return and even less desire on the part of the Browns to move Njoku, time and a discussion with team leadership proved to the tight end that his best place would continue to be Cleveland -- for now.

"I'd rather not go into it," Njoku said when speaking to reporters for the first time since his trade request. "I understand where I am right now. I'm a Cleveland Brown and I just want to leave it like that."

Despite his clear request to avoid discussing his offseason drama, those asking the questions wouldn't let Njoku off that easy.

"Let me take you back to my rookie year," Njoku said when asked about his seemingly new excitement to be in Cleveland. "We struggled, we went 0-16, it was tough. Fast forward to now, I just feel like it's in my best interest to stay here for the time being and try to contribute in any way that I can to help the team win and succeed. I'm here, I'm excited to be here and I'm ready to win."

Winning very well could be in Njoku's future. A year ago, it was guaranteed by most anyone you might ask. Instead, a season-opening blowout loss to the Titans was a big bump in what was supposed to be a long road, and Njoku's journey was cut shorter than anyone could have expected a week later in New York.

Streaking across the middle toward the home sideline at MetLife Stadium, Njoku leapt for a pass, was undercut by a defender, tumbled head over heels and extended his arm to brace his fall. The tight end landed on his outstretched hand and his head, breaking his wrist and suffering a concussion.

He didn't see the field again until Week 14, and was iced out of action in Weeks 15 and 16 before playing but failing to receive a target in Week 17.

Things should be different in 2020 in new head coach Kevin Stefanski's offense, which utilizes two tight end sets and is set up well with Njoku and Austin Hooper. The new competition might help push Njoku to reach his potential, which has always been rather high thanks to his incredible athleticism.

He'll also likely benefit from playing under a coaching staff that wants to see him on the field when available.

"Two tight end sets in his offenses [are] very frequent and I believe Austin and I have talent that not many tight ends have," Njoku said. "I'm excited to finally play again. Mind you, I also got hurt last year for potentially the whole season, dealing with some extracurricular confrontations but I'm just really excited to start playing again with my teammates, they're great."

Cleveland picked up Njoku's fifth-year option in the spring, meaning he's under team control through 2021, giving him two seasons to maximize his production in Stefanski's offense. It worked out pretty well for Kyle Rudolph and Irv Smith Jr. in 2019.

With Hooper under a lucrative, four-year deal, Njoku will have to play his way to an extension with the Browns. But for now, he's in Cleveland, where he said Tuesday he wants to be "long term."

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