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Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Browns Rumors: Austin Hooper Expected to Return Despite Njoku Receiving Franchise Tag

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The Cleveland Browns reportedly plan to run it back with their two tight ends in 2022.

According to ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler, the AFC North team plans on keeping Austin Hooper and his $9.5 million in base salary for 2022 even though David Njoku is returning on a franchise tag worth $10.9 million.

Cleveland announced the decision to place the franchise tag on Njoku on Monday prior to the deadline to make tag decisions on Tuesday at 4 p.m. ET.

Fowler also wrote Sunday about the Browns’ situation with the tight ends and noted they “love” having multiple options in their offense they can use at the same time.

Despite Cleveland’s decision to keep Njoku on the tag, his production has been inconsistent since the team selected him with a first-round pick in 2017. He posted career-best numbers in his second season with 56 catches for 639 yards and four touchdowns but played just four games in 2019 and had a mere 19 catches for 213 yards and two touchdowns in 2020.

He was better in 2021 with 36 catches for 475 yards and four touchdowns, but the Browns were likely expecting more when they used a first-round pick on him.

Still, Njoku is just 25 years old and has flashed enough potential at times to convince the team to bring him back.

As for Hooper, he has been unable to replicate the back-to-back Pro Bowl years he enjoyed on the Atlanta Falcons in 2018 and 2019 in part because he is playing alongside Njoku and not seeing as many targets.

Still, he was solid in 2021 with 38 catches for 345 yards and three touchdowns and will be entering his third season with the Browns in 2022.

There is some familiarity in place heading into the upcoming campaign, and Cleveland can now focus on other positions, such as wide receiver, with free agency and the draft approaching.

The Browns will be paying a notable price for the tight end spot, but Njoku’s potential and Hooper’s Pro Bowl track record means it could pay off.            

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