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Browns designate TE David Njoku as franchise player, tender three

Njoku, a 2017 first-round pick, recorded 36 receptions and 475 receiving yards and led the Browns with four receiving touchdowns in 2021

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The Browns have placed a franchise tag on TE David Njoku.

Njoku, a 2017 first-round pick, amassed one of the best seasons of his five-year career in 2021 when he recorded 36 receptions and 475 receiving yards and led the Browns with four receiving touchdowns. He also recorded the longest reception by an NFL tight end in 2021 after a 71-yard touchdown grab against the Chargers on Oct. 10. He's totaled 1,754 yards and 15 touchdowns across his career and has been a key cog in the Browns' run game as well, using his massive 6-foot-4, 246-pound frame to clear rushing lanes.

At the end of last season, Njoku expressed his desire to return to the Browns and stay in Cleveland after the success the team had achieved over the last two seasons. The Browns have won 19 games in the last two years, their most in a two-season period since 1988-89, and Njoku — who was on the Browns when they had a winless season in 2017 — believes Cleveland is capable of being even better.

"It's a lot of blood, sweat and tears that was put into these last few years," Njoku said on Jan. 10. "I owe it all to God. We just have to keep working … I love it here. I love it here to the core."

Njoku was commended by coaches at the end of last season for continuing to improve his game in all areas. 2021, for example, was Njoku's best season since 2018, and his receiving and touchdown totals have increased every year since 2019.

The Browns believe he's capable of growing even more, too, since he's only 25 but already has five years of experience in the NFL.

"He's come a long way, both on and off the field," Browns Executive Vice President and GM Andrew Berry said Tuesday at the NFL Combine. "That's a credit to him and how hard he worked. David as a player is 25 years old, and I think he's close to maturity. I think as his opportunities increase, his impact will as well."

Now, the Browns will see just how further Njoku can progress his game in 2022. Njoku is also the first non-kicker to receive the franchise tag in Browns history.

Njoku played in 16 games last season, catching 36 passes for 475 yards with a team-high four receiving touchdowns. The 2017 first round pick recorded the longest reception by a tight end in 2021 after a 71-yard touchdown grab at the Chargers on Oct. 10. Njoku has appeared in 65 career games and recorded 148 receptions for 1,754 yards and 15 touchdowns.

3 Players Tendered

The Browns also tendered three exclusive rights free agents: WR Ja'Marcus Bradley, G Michael Dunn and OL Blake Hance.

Bradley has appeared in eight games since joining the Browns as an undrafted free agent in 2020. He registered four receptions for 64 yards in five games last season.

Dunn started two games at right guard and appeared in 14 total games in 2021.

Hance appeared in all 17 games in 2021, starting eight of them (six at right tackle, two at left tackle).

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