One day later, Barnidge returned to tweet his farewell to Cleveland Browns jersey:
I want to thank the Cleveland Browns for giving me my opportunity and looking forward to seeing the change. Time for the next step.
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That new contract came on the heels of his 1,000-yard, nine-touchdown season in 2015, but Barnidge came back to earth last year with just 612 yards and two scores off 55 grabs. It didn’t help that he played with roughly 22 quarterbacks, but coach Hue Jackson said in March of his tight end group: “That position needs to upgrade.”
It’s mildly surprising — the Browns could have kept both players — but Cleveland obviously has high hopes for Njoku, the 6-foot-4, 246-pound first-rounder out of Miami. The Browns traded back into Round 1 for the rookie, who prompted NFL Network’s Mike Mayock to say: “He doesn’t even know yet how good he can be. All the talent in the world.”
Njoku is a player who is just scratching the surface of his potential. The tight end began to find success as a redshirt freshman before exploding in 2016, catching 43 passes for 698 yards and eight touchdowns for the Hurricanes.
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“He doesn’t even know yet how good he can be,” NFL Network’s Mike Mayock said after Cleveland selected Njoku on Thursday.
A high school champion in the high jump, Njoku brings athleticism to the tight end position not seen in Cleveland since the Browns last drafted a tight end out of tradition-rich Miami — Kellen Winslow Jr., in 2004. As Njoku displays elite leaping ability (37.5-inch vertical at the combine) especially in jump-ball situations, he also enjoys blocking, displayed great feet in his combine workouts and has a chiseled frame that could afford another 10 pounds of muscle.
“I’m not afraid to block,” Njoku told cheapjersey in late March. “I was never afraid to block. I’ve been blocking since I was like 230 [pounds] against people who were 270. I’m just getting bigger and stronger every day, so I feel like blocking for me isn’t a problem.”
“It was really just a weight off of my shoulders to finally just get the announcement that what I have been working for is finally came to fruition and I can actually know where I am going, know who I am going up against and know the schedule,” Garrett said Thursday night from his draft party in Arlington, Texas, per ESPN. “Now, it’s time to put in that work so I can be prepared to go against the best.”
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Garrett agitated Browns fans in February when he publicly begged Cowboys owner Jerry Jones to swing a blockbuster trade with Cleveland to help bring the rookie to Dallas.
Garrett came around, though, saying earlier this month that “hopefully the Browns” would take him at No. 1, a wish that was granted Thursday night.
Now comes the hard part: Helping to turn around a team that hasn’t won a playoff match since New Year’s Day 1995. Garrett wasn’t even alive when that distant game was played, but he plans to be around when the Browns — at last — win their next postseason battle.
“They picked me because they think they see something in me, and they know that I can help them rebuild and turn this program around,” Garrett said. “That’s the mindset that we have to have. Starting next year, we can put the pieces together, not only the players but with a mindset that we can actually do this. I know that the players there have that same mindset. I am going to keep that feeling contagious. I’m just prepared for that.”