_The offseason has arrived, and it figures to be a busy one in Cleveland as the Browns evaluate the highs and lows of the 2021 season. We're doing some evaluations, too, by taking a thorough look at how each position fared throughout the year. _
Next up: the tight ends
The Raw Numbers
Passing offense: 195.3 yards per game (27th in NFL)
Touchdown catches: 21 (T-20th in NFL)
Total tight end touchdowns: 10
Total tight end receiving yards: 1,053 (61.9 yards per game)
Austin Hooper: 38 receptions, 345 yards, 3 touchdowns
David Njoku: 36 receptions, 475 yards, 4 touchdowns
Harrison Bryant: 21 receptions, 223 yards, 3 touchdowns
Analysis in 150 Words or Less
The Browns' tight ends room was virtually unchanged from 2020 and produced at a similar level in Year 2 under head coach Kevin Stefanski, who used three tight-end sets more than anyone in the league for the second consecutive year. Njoku, the 2017 first-round pick, was the top producer of the group and was arguably the most impressive overall receiver on the Browns after he built his best season since 2018, but the group is likely capable of producing even more if the Browns' passing game can get back on track in 2022. Bryant, a 2020 fourth-round pick, deserves credit for finishing the year on a strong note, too — his three touchdowns all came in the last four games, matching his season TD total from his rookie year.
Number of Significance
17 percent – That's how much the Browns used 13 personnel, which is when three tight ends are on the field. The Browns led the NFL in the usage of that package, and they used the grouping even more than they did in 2020 (14 percent), when they still led the league. Having three quality tight ends is imperative in Stefanski's current playbook, which will make the position one to watch this offseason — Njoku is currently slated to be an unrestricted free agent.
Njoku had one of the best performances by a Browns tight end in the last decade — and the best performance from a receiver all season — against the Chargers in Week 5 with a team-leading seven catches for 149 yards and one touchdown, which was the longest play of the Browns' season. Njoku caught a 20-yard pass and plowed through a defender before winning a race to the end zone for a 71-yard score. The play put the Browns ahead by a touchdown in the fourth quarter, but they weren't able to hold on late in a 47-42 loss, one of the highest-scoring games of the NFL season. Njoku's 149 yards were the most a Browns tight end had totaled in a game since Gary Barnidge collected 101 yards on Oct. 25, 2015.
The tight ends weren't able to do much to help the Browns advance the ball in Week 6 against the Cardinals when they combined for only two catches for 10 yards. That was their lowest combined production in a game all season, but everything was low offensively for the Browns that week — their 73 rushing yards were the second-lowest total all year, and they only managed to find 217 net passing yards.
What They Said
"Looking back and reflecting, obviously, we left a lot on the field, and I want to take personal blame for some of that. I feel like I could have done more. We all feel like we could have done more. We have to just turn to the next chapter and get back to work." - Njoku
Who's Back for 2022?
Hooper and Bryant are each currently under contract for 2022. Miller Forristall and Nick Guggemos were also signed to reserve/futures contracts at the beginning of the offseason.
Who's a Potential Free Agent
Njoku concluded his fifth year with the team 2021 and will be an unrestricted free agent if he's not re-signed by March 16. Stephen Carlson, who missed the season with a knee injury, will be a restricted free agent.
One of the Browns' biggest decisions of the offseason will be about Njoku and possibly extending his time in Cleveland. He's only 25 and has all the physical traits and talents to continue to grow, and losing him in free agency would thrust the tight end position near the top of areas the Browns could address in the draft or in other offseason transactions. Hooper and Bryant, though, are still both talented and capable of improving in 2022 if the Browns elevate their pass game.
Check out the best photos from the 2021 season by the Browns photo team