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2020 Cleveland Browns Positional Breakdown: Tight Ends

The fourth installment of the 2020 Cleveland Browns positional breakdown will feature the tight end room. As of this article there is only three known tight ends within the Browns organization going into the 2020 season.There will be an update near training camp, when there is one, of a potential fourth tight end joining the group. The three main guys that will be covered in this article are newly required Austin Hooper from free agency, recently drafted Harrison Bryant from Florida Atlantic, and fan favorite David Njoku.

Austin Hooper (signed until 2023, Opt Out in 2023, Free Agent in 2024)

2020 Contract: $4 million

The Cleveland Browns and Andrew Barry made some noise this off-season by acquiring the top tight end in free agency with the signing of Austin Hooper from Atlanta. Hooper signed a 4-year, $42 million deal which makes him the highest paid tight end in the league according to Pro Football Focus. This was a move the Browns needed to make in a position of need in because after David Njoku got hurt last year, it was downhill for the Browns at that point. Getting Hooper strengthens a room that head coach Kevin Stefanski leans on his wide outside zone scheme. The scheme requires two tight end sets, even three in some cases, and getting Hooper to bolster that position was a massive move by the team.

Last season, Hooper finished the 2019 season with 787 yards receiving on 75 receptions with six touchdowns. He finished 6th or better in each category for tight ends across the league. The Browns picked up one of the very few elite tight ends in the league. Furthermore, pairing him with David Njoku makes this tight end the room one of the best in the league. In his four year career, Hooper has amassed 2,244 yards with 16 touchdowns which is hard to imagine in a league where tight ends are used infrequently in offensive schemes.

2020 Expectations for Hooper

Expect Hooper to build off his 2019 season with a scheme that fill feature him, and the other tight ends in Stefanski’s scheme. The wide zone scheme would call for Hooper to be on the field for a vast number of run plays along with two tight end sets. Hooper could see an uptick in in yards along with receptions, and even touchdowns, especially in the red zone. Although he will be splitting targets between himself, Odell Beckham Jr, Jarvis Landry, David Njoku, Nick Chubb, and others, Hooper will be productive in the Browns offense going into the 2020 season.

 

David Njoku (signed until 2021, Free Agent 2022)

2020 Contract: $3.030 million

All hail the Chief. That’s right, Chief will be back healthy, with a full schedule ahead of him. Unfortunately for the Browns, David Njoku missed a majority of last year due to a wrist injury. He was only able to play in four games during the 2019 season. Once the Browns lost him, the tight ends didn’t get much love with Freddie Kitchens calling the plays. That left quarterback Baker Mayfield without a threat near the end zone for jump balls. But, with Njoku coming back, along with acquiring Austin Hooper, things are looking up for the Chief. Despite signing free agent Austin Hooper, and drafting Harrison Bryant in the 2020 NFL Draft, Andrew Berry has stated that they plan on using Njoku in Kevin Stefanski’s wide outside zone offensive scheme.

On April 27th the Browns did exercise Njoku’s fifth-year option, meaning he will be with the Browns through the 2021 season. He is expected to make $6.013 million during the 2021 season before he becomes a free agent in 2022. Picking up that fifth-year option gives the Browns some time to get an extension worked out with Njoku before he becomes a free agent. That is something to keep an eye on with Njoku, and the Browns especially since he will be paired with Austin Hooper in the tight end room for the next two seasons.

2020 Expectations for Njoku

Expect a bounce back year for Njoku in a tight end room this season after missing almost all of last year due to injury. He will be poised to make a comeback, and show why the Browns drafted him in the first round back in 2017 with Myles Garrett. He will be in a room filled with guys who can bring multiple facets to a Browns offense who look poised to score on almost every possession.

 

Harrison Bryant (“signed” until 2023, Free Agent in 2024)

2020 Contract: N/A

As of this article Harrison Bryant hasn’t signed his entry contract with the Browns but he will be “signed” with the team through the 2023 season. The fourth-round pick from Florida Atlantic, according to multiple analysts, was a steal by the Browns in the draft. NFL Analyst Lance Zierlein stated that he thought Bryant was a projected third-round pick and even compared him to George Kittle.

What made Bryant a target not only for the Browns, but for the rest of the league, was his production in college. In his senior season, he was awarded the John Mackey Award for being the best tight end in all of college football. What makes that impressive is that he was the first non-Power 5 conference player to do so in the awards history. Bryant finished his senior season with 65 receptions for 1,004 yards, which was an average of 15.4 yards per reception, while scoring seven touchdowns in 12 games.

Furthermore, all of those stats lead the nation for tight ends in each category. Bryant was considered the best tight end going into the draft and for the Browns to get him in the fourth round was phenomenal for the team overall. He will be going into a room with Austin Hooper and David Njoku, who both individually are considered two great tight ends in the league respectively.

2020 Expectations for Bryant

The 2020 season will see Harrison Bryant being the locked in number three tight end role for the Browns. He will learn from Hooper and Njoku while even getting some experience playing in the same wide outside zone scheme that Bryant played in back in college. Bryant couldn’t have joined a better situation since head coach Kevin Stefanski loves to lean on his tight ends in his offensive scheme. Expect Bryant to get some looks on the offense, and maybe even score a touchdown or two for the Browns this year. Bryant is a player that fans should keep an eye on this year and for years to come.

 

Summary

The Browns with Andrew Berry as the General Manager give a massive boost to the tight end room this off-season. They managed to take a weakness on a team that position wise was neglected last year and made it one of the best rooms in the league. Adding Austin Hooper in free agency, and Harrison Bryant in the draft was key to help build it going into the 2020 season. That doesn’t even take into account with having a healthy David Njoku coming back from injury to show that he still belongs in the NFL.

Look for the tight end room to play a key role for Kevin Stefanski this year and to give Baker Mayfield targets all over the field and even in the red zone. Expect a great season overall for the tight ends this year for the Browns.

 

(Note: Make sure to check out the other positional breakdown pieces for the 2020 Cleveland Browns.)

Zach Martin
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