From the moment he signed the five-year contract extension worth $90 million last year with the New York Giants, Odell Beckham was supposed to be thrilled staying in East Rutherford, New Jersey. With the bright lights of New York City as a backdrop across the Lincoln Tunnel from Met Life Stadium, the uniquely talented larger than life star wide receiver had the chance to become an all-time great for one of the NFL’s most successful franchises.
Through it all, even with the former 2014 first round pick grabbed at number 12 overall out of LSU by former Giants general manager Jerry Reese, the charismatic and overly dramatic Beckham was the lightning rod that lit up the gridiron for Big Blue. Fans loved his one-handed touchdown catch that defied logic. They adored the special player he was.
At 22, he took the league by storm with 91 receptions for 1305 yards and a cool baker’s dozen of touchdowns full of electrifying plays and celebrations. Teamed with two-time Super Bowl champion Eli Manning, it looked like a match made in heaven. Eli to Beckham became a Giant staple on highlight reels with the explosive No. 13 taking seamless routes to the house.
There’s no doubting Beckham’s physical gifts. His first three seasons as a Giant at the wide receiver position are unrivaled. Year Two was 96 catches, 1450 yards and 13 touchdowns. Year Three is the only season he played in all 16 games, finishing with a career best 101 receptions for 1367 yards and 10 more touchdowns. In his first 43 games, he had a combined 288 catches, 4117 yards and 35 scores.
Astonishingly, the three-time Pro Bowler only played in one playoff game. A forgettable 38-13 loss to Green Bay in the NFC Wildcard at Lambeau Field following an 11-5 record in 2016. Following an ill timed boat party in Miami a week prior to the game, Beckham only caught four passes for 28 yards. He was targeted 11 times, which included a couple of crucial drops that stalled drives.
It’s hard to fathom three years later, Beckham’s gone. The uncanny receiver went off the tracks after a broken ankle against the Chargers during 2017. That changed everything. It almost became an alternate universe for OBJ and a disorganized Giants organization that following replacing Reese and Ben McAdoo with David Gettleman and Pat Shurmur for 2018, was like a parallel world, basically channeling a odd storyline in the cult classic TV show Dark Shadows.
Not shockingly, the team became bad quickly. They had already sunk to great depths in a disastrous Year Two under McAdoo, whose bizarre press conferences along with his insistence on benching Manning for the mediocre Geno Smith, led to his undoing. He didn’t even survive 2017 by getting unceremoniously dumped by what was a classy organization. Class is something John Mara has held onto from his late Dad, Wellington Mara. But under the younger Mara and Steve Tisch, common sense hasn’t been so common.
Sticking with Eli Manning has proven to be shortsighted. The aging quarterback, who is always accountable by handling losses with a dignity not even older brother Peyton Manning could, remains a Giant by default. This isn’t so much about Eli, who is making too much money on the salary cap. At this point, he’s not worth the $23.2 million he’s set to earn in his final year. That includes a roster bonus of $5 million on Saint Patrick’s Day. That’s only four days away.
It’s really about a stubborn front office that fears releasing Eli in similar fashion to Phil Simms. However, the big difference was when legendary GM George Young did it, Simms had just come off a Pro Bowl year with a wildcard win. That decision turned out pretty bad too due to Supplemental Draft pick Dave Brown never becoming the QB Young envisioned. They went through Kent Graham and Danny Kanell too in a dark era for Giants football in the mid 90’s before Kerry Collins brought back stability.
The return for Beckham last night isn’t bad. Despite what the experts believe, getting the Browns’ first round pick (No. 17), their second third rounder (No. 95-New England) and safety Jabrill Peppers is a solid return. Sure. It’s not a home run like a top five draft pick would’ve been. But they couldn’t have gotten that for Odell coming off the busted ankle last year anyway.
Ironically, the Browns picked first last year taking QB Baker Mayfield. A great selection that set up the franchise for a bright future that now features Beckham, Jarvis Landry, Nick Chubb and former troubled Chiefs running back Kareem Hunt and Duke Johnson. They could be scary good in 2019. With the moody Antonio Brown forcing his way out of Pittsburgh to the Raiders for only third and fifth round picks (#’s 66 & 142), it’s the Browns who are AFC North favorites.
So, what was the moment that made the Giants regret giving Odell the new contract? For me, it isn’t the boat party that ended in a very disappointing wildcard loss to Aaron Rodgers. It isn’t even him pretending to take a piss during a bizarre touchdown celebration that aggravated Mara. The poorly timed interview with media giant ESPN a month into last season had to be the breaking point for everyone involved. He basically threw Eli under the bus and insulted the organization that made him the NFL’s highest paid wideout.
This is who he is. A great talent who can be a distraction with his diva tendencies which continued during the off-season with cryptic tweets. That couldn’t have helped. I think it was his way of saying, ‘I don’t want to be here.’ I can’t prove it. Jay Glazer called it.
Considering how well Saquon Barkley handled a record setting first year that won him AP Rookie Of The Year with 1307 rushing yards, 15 combined touchdowns (11 rushing/4 receiving), and 2028 total yards from scrimmage, the former Penn State star the Giants took second overall over Sam Darnold, was a breath of fresh air. He isn’t over the top when it comes to scoring or antics on and off the field. The 22-year old from the Bronx is the quintessential Giant, who they want to build around.
The issue becomes what do Giants brass decide on the quarterback. Or when. Can they really bring Manning back when they’re gonna stink anyway? Why would they? Even with an improved offensive line, they subtracted Landon Collins (signed with Redskins), Snacks Harrison (Lions), underachiever Olivier Vernon (traded to Browns for guard Kevin Zeitler with no pick swap) and Eli Apple (Saints) from the defense.
So, with the number six pick, are they going defense? They have no pass rush. In a good draft full of talented players with potential, it would make sense to rebuild the defensive line. They desperately need an edge rusher who can pressure quarterbacks and make an impact. Not just whiff like Vernon did most of the time. He still paced Big Blue with seven sacks.
I’m assuming Dwayne Haskins won’t be available at number six. The Ohio State quarterback had a superb season for the Buckeyes. He isn’t going to run much, but he can throw it. Kyler Murray is expected to go number one to Arizona. Don’t forget the Cardinals are shopping Josh Rosen. Might Gettleman have interest by offering one of the third round picks? We’ll see.
What about the number 17 pick they received from Cleveland? Do they go receiver? Only Sterling Shepard remains as a solid target with tight end Evan Engram a potential breakout candidate if he stays healthy in Year Three. Don’t forget Barkley is a true dual threat who caught a team best 91 passes for 721 receiving yards and four TD. In case you’re wondering, OBJ had 77 receptions for 1052 yards and six scores in the Giants’ first 12 games. He missed the final four due to a quad injury.
I’ll say this. Even though he doesn’t turn 27 until November 5th, Beckham’s injury history is a concern moving forward. Any time you’re talking about a very talented receiver who’s had leg injuries including hamstring issues, that’s the first thing you worry about. You can argue that he’s still in his prime with a few peak years left.
It’ll all depend on if he can stay on the field. Perhaps having other weapons around him will help. Honestly, the Browns are a perfect fit for Beckham. We’ll see if he can deliver the goods with the pressure squarely on Cleveland to fulfill lofty expectations at the Dawg Pound.
Don’t you find it fascinating that already, Beckham wants to restructure his current contract? Typical of who he is. How about going out and proving you can stay healthy and be the elite receiver everyone thinks you are. What about leading the Browns back to the playoffs and helping them advance. That’s Cleveland’s problem now.
If the Giants are gonna do this, then go all the way even if it means breaking Eli’s heart. Sometimes, it can be a cruel business. It was never going to be about 2019 anyway. It is clearly about the future of a franchise that’s lost its way. Expect more moves by the Draft in late April.
See ya later, Odell.