People are still talking about the Odell Beckham, Jr. trade from the New York Football Giants to the Cleveland Browns like the subject was the best gift they ever received on a cold Christmas morning.
According to Pat McManamon of ESPN, the trade happened rather quickly. We’ve heard about some of the details regarding Cleveland and New York from Peter King, but McManamon adds in some more context, including the involvement of the San Francisco 49ers.
Browns‘ GM John Dorsey and Giants’ GM Dave Gettleman have known each other since 1982 and developed a good friendship. Last spring at the NFL owner’s meeting, Gettleman stated that OBJ was available for trade for two first-round draft picks. Dorsey was intrigued, but the price was too high. The Browns have tried to upgrade the WR position after finally giving up on Josh Gordon and traded for Jarvis Landry, signed free agent Breshad Perriman, drafted Antonio Callaway and Damion Ratley, and even looked at former Cowboys’ star Dez Bryant.
Even though Gettleman and Dorsey had trade discussions about Cleveland getting pass-rusher Olivier Vernon, OBJ did not come up. According to McManamon’s article, the OBJ trade talks did not commence until Dorsey heard another club was in talks with the Giants about a possible trade for the talented receiver.
The date was March 12, the day before the official free agent period began. The San Francisco 49ers were in active trade talks about obtaining OBJ, and had made it known they wanted him as far back as the combine. 49ers’ GM John Lynch had several conversations with Gettleman from the period of the combine to the middle of March.
The Niners own the number two overall pick while the Giants have the sixth overall selection. Lynch offered to swap first-round picks. Gettleman countered with the 49ers also trading DT DeForest Buckner who had made the Pro Bowl last year and was named to the NFL All-Rookie Team after being taken in the first-round in 2016. Lynch nixed losing Buckner, but still wanted to work out a trade. Instead of swapping first-round picks, perhaps the 49ers second-round pick could be offered instead (which is the 36th pick).
The morning of March 12, Dorsey got wind of the 49ers serious interest in OBJ and that trade talks were ongoing. He then called Gettleman to iron out some details regarding the Vernon trade. Dorsey did not know at what point the trade talks were regarding San Francisco and the Giants, but brought up Beckham after he finished the details on the Vernon for OG Kevin Zeitler swap.
When questioned about the possibility of the Browns trading for OBJ, Gettleman’s response to Dorsey was “What do you got?“
For the remainder of the day, calls went to and from Gettleman and Dorsey. It just happened that the Browns were in a staff meeting regarding free agency and discussing their plans. So when Gettleman would call, Dorsey would place him on speaker phone to where head coach Freddie Kitchens could hear the conversation.
Gettleman began as he had asserted last spring his franchise wanted two first-round picks and with that the deal would be considered done. Dorsey countered with the Browns’ first-round pick at number 17 plus DE Emmanuel Ogbah, a former high second-round choice. Gettleman stated he wanted S Jabril Peppers since they lost their starting safety Landon Collins in free agency. He also stated he didn’t have an interest in Ogbah.
Although Dorsey loved having Peppers as a roster member, he realized that one player was not going to stand in the way of getting a dynamic play-maker such as OBJ. Gettleman considered that with receiving the Browns first-round pick at number 17 plus Peppers, a former first-round pick, that the Giants were indeed getting what they had always said they wanted – two first-round picks for Beckham.
Early in the evening of March 12, after an all-day back and forth marathon between the duo GMs, the two clubs agreed. Gettleman had also wrangled away the Browns second third-round selection at number 95, a pick they had received in the Danny Shelton trade with the Patriots last spring.
Now, all Gettleman had to do was convince the Giants’ owners Chairman Steve Tisch and President John Mara, to sign off on the deal. Tisch gave the green light whereas Mara had to think about it during his 40-minute commute home and then finally relented.
What was unusual about the deal is how Gettleman did not call the 49ers once he received a firm offer from the Browns in order to encourage them to up the ante, or bring back the Niners best offer back to Dorsey with an attempt to make Cleveland improve their deal.
In the NFL, they call that “trust.”