All offseason, it seems like every name that’s hit the trade block or the free-agent market has been connected to the Dallas Cowboys. It hit again yesterday when it was reported by ESPN’s Adam Schefter and confirmed by agent Drew Rosenhaus that Cleveland Browns Tight End David Njoku has requested a trade.
Later in the day, Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com reported that the Browns were seeking a first-round pick for the former first-rounder and that the Dallas Cowboys were one team that was interested in the athletic player.
Another day, another NFL player connected the Dallas Cowboys.
As it’s been with the safety position, people have been connecting the Dallas Cowboys to tight ends for several years now, even before Jason Witten’s one-year absence. And here we are again. The problem is, David Njoku doesn’t make sense for the Dallas Cowboys.
Not long after it was reported that the Dallas Cowboys were interested, Mike Fisher of Sports Illustrated got a source that downplayed the Cowboys interest in Njoku. Whether it’s legit or not, let’s explore a few things that make it unlikely a deal would come to fruition.
First of all, the asking price that is being reported by Cabot would far exceed anything that any reasonable NFL general manager would be willing to pay. Even in his days of throwing multiple first-round picks around for wide receivers, Jerry Jones wouldn’t send a first-round pick for a tight end that hasn’t lived up to his first-round billing through three seasons in the NFL.
If it’s true that the Cleveland Browns are asking a first-round draft pick, they are incredibly overvaluing their asset, or they’re setting the price so high to insinuate that they aren’t going to be trading Njoku. Either way, they aren’t getting a first-round pick for David Njoku.
There’s some talent there, but for one reason or another, it hasn’t consistently flashed for Njoku in Cleveland. In 2019, Njoku was limited to just four games and caught only five passes. His best season was in 2018 when he caught 56 passes for 639 yards and four touchdowns. The problem is, despite his athleticism, drops have been an issue for Njoku in his short time in the NFL.
David Njoku drop rates.
2019 – 2 drops on 7 catchable targets (28.6%).
2018 – 8/64 (12.5%). 1st among TEs with at least 30 targets.
2017 – 3/35 (8.7%). 10th among TEs with at least 58 targets.
Now, I’m of the mind that drop rates are a bit overrated, but it’s a problem
— John Williams ✭ (@john9williams) July 3, 2020
Among tight ends that had at least 30 targets in 2018, David Njoku had the highest drop rate on catchable passes in the NFL per Pro Football Focus. His 12.5% drop rate was a full point higher than Baltimore’s Nick Boyle that year. For comparison, in 2019, Blake Jarwin had the 11th lowest drop rate among tight ends with at least 26 targets at 3.1.
And that leads us to the final reason why David Njoku doesn’t make sense for the Dallas Cowboys. And that’s Blake Jarwin.
Blake Jarwin comes into 2020 looking to improve upon a 2019 that had fans and analysts alike clamoring for more. Jarwin saw a tremendous amount of improvement from his 2018 season and became a reliable passing option for Dak Prescott and the Dallas Cowboys. His ability to take short receptions for significant gains was a revelation as the aging Jason Witten struggled to generate much after the catch or down the field.
Despite seeing nearly half as many targets as Jason Witten, Blake Jarwin saw three more targets 20 yards down the field than Witten. Blake Jarwin showed a dynamic ability to get down the field and make plays in the passing game. His athleticism opened opportunities to get big gains out of short targets.
After Jason Witten left in free agency for the Las Vegas Raiders, the Dallas Cowboys had several opportunities to add a tight end, either in free agency or in the draft. However, they opted to go with Jarwin as their starting tight end for 2020. That’s no small detail to this whole discussion.
This offseason has seen Hayden Hurst and Austin Hooper traded. Trey Burton went from Chicago to Indianapolis. And Jimmy Graham relocated from Green Bay to Chicago. There was a ton of tight end movement, and while the Cowboys did sign free agent Blake Bell, he won’t provide much competition for snaps for Jarwin.
The only area where Jarwin struggles is in his blocking. He’s been up and down over the last couple of years. While it’s a skill that matters, I think it’s something that can be improved upon, and in a pass-happy NFL and Cowboys offense, it doesn’t matter as much as Jarwin’s receiving prowess.
Because blocking isn’t Jarwin’s strong suit, you wouldn’t want to bring in another tight end who also struggles as a blocker unless the price was more amenable.
The Dallas Cowboys extended Blake Jarwin’s contract this offseason on a deal that will keep him around through the 2023 season. The money isn’t so much that they wouldn’t be able to walk away, but they certainly made a commitment and believe that Jarwin can be the guy to replace the guy.
It’s not a move that the Cowboys are going to make, and they shouldn’t if the cost is going to be a top 100 pick. With Blake Jarwin at tight end, they’re in a much better position than the narrative suggests. With their group
David Njoku is still quite young. He’ll turn 24 in July and is under contract through the 2021 season after the Browns picked up his fifth-year option. While it doesn’t make sense for the Cowboys to pay a premium pick for David Njoku, if the price came down to a fourth-round pick or later, to me, it’s worth a more extensive conversation.