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Odell Beckham Jr. - Trade or keep?

Has the injured receiver played his last down with Cleveland?

Indianapolis Colts v Cleveland Browns Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images

Now that the business of the playoffs is over for the Browns, the business of the franchise will begin at the same time.

Lockers will need to be cleaned out. Players will disperse and many will travel back to their respective homes in other states. The athletes and coaches who remain in Cleveland year-round will take some needed time off before off-season workouts begin and the season reviews kick in.

One item of business is Odell Beckham, Jr. What are the Browns going to do with him?

NFL: OCT 25 Browns at Bengals Photo by Ian Johnson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

OBJ was injured in the Week 7 game against the Cincinnati Bengals when QB Baker Mayfield tossed an interception. As Beckham approached the tackling melee he planted his foot awkwardly. He torn his left knee ACL and was placed on season-ending IR for the remainder of the 2020 season plus missed the playoffs. He had surgery on November 10.

In his absence, WR Rashard Higgins stepped in to his role and had 37 receptions for 599 yards with four touchdowns. Although average numbers, they do not adequately represent his dependability as a receiver and downfield blocker.

Usually, the timetable for an injury such as this would be a minimum of 12 months; which would tabulate OBJ’s return around mid-season of the 2021 campaign. So at that rate, the initial prognosis is to be without the talented receiver for almost half of next year.

However, a lot of NFL players with this injury have come back much sooner. The aching questions would have to be: Will this be the same speedy, elusive receiver? Or will he be a player that is a bit slower with lessened abilities to make sudden cuts?

Beckham has been rehabbing his injury and often posts updates on his Instagram.

Up until his injury, OBJ appeared in all 23 games during his short stint with Cleveland. This season, he had 23 receptions for 319 yards with three touchdowns. He also rushed three times for 72 yards with another touchdown and was 1-1 on passing attempts. Last season with the Browns he finished the year with four TDs, and 1,035 yards on 74 catches.

Despite losing OBJ for the year, unlike some teams with high-caliber talent that suddenly is lost for the remainder of the season, it did not cripple the Browns’ offense.

Early trade rumors

The rumors began to fly that OBJ was on his way out of Cleveland almost instantly after he became injured. Ian Rapoport sent out a message November 1 on Twitter that “there is a very real possibility that Beckham doesn’t play for the Browns in 2021 and is traded instead.”

Here at DBN we realize that Rapoport has ions more contacts than we do, so we were curious what led to that revealing tweet. So, we tweeted him begging the question, “When you stated ‘My understanding is that there’s a very real possibility that (OBJ) has played his final game with the Cleveland Browns’ - what was that based on?” To date, we have not heard back so we are still in the dark what the heck his “reveal” meant.

OBJ has two years remaining on his contract and appears very happy with his reunion with longtime friend and former LSU teammate Jarvis Landry.

Rapoport usually is spot-on with his inside information. But who fed him this information? Wouldn’t it most likely have come from someone within the Browns organization?

Then he added, “Beckham has never really fully embraced Cleveland, never had a good rapport with Baker Mayfield, and they may be playing better without him.“ What a perplexing statement. Based again on what information? Without any shred of evidence produced or reported, doesn’t that seem a tad irresponsible?

Around the same time frame, radio host Mike Francesa stated he had a source that was similar – that the Browns were looking to trade Beckham. On the Pat McAfee Show, host McAfee stated that there were sources that most likely confirm Rapoport’s assertion.

Right after Rapoport’s tweet, Sports Illustrated NFL insider Albert Breer seemed to agree somewhat that at season’s end, there could be talk of movement when he was a guest on Bull & Fox in Cleveland:

“Even though this might not be real right now, I think other teams are going to be monitoring this…and if there are little signs there, I think the Browns are going to start getting phone calls.”

In April last spring, the big news was that OBJ would be traded to the Minnesota Vikings for second and fifth-round draft picks during a “bombshell report” on the sports show Moose and Maggie on WFAN New York citing a “well-placed source.” Social media went berserk with the news with many photoshopped pics of Beckham in a Vikings Number 13 jersey. The report came off the heals of the Stephon Diggs trade to Buffalo and was later confirmed as false.

And Sports Illustrated published “an anonymous league source” that had Beckham going back to the Big Apple as a member of the New York Jets. Although the report did not confirm any details, this source was quoted as saying that “Beckham wasn’t actively seeking a trade, but would welcome a return to New York.”

And now?

When healthy, the general feeling has been that OBJ is one of the Top-3 receivers in the league. Five years ago he was indeed the best receiver in the league. Since coming to Cleveland, he hasn’t even been the top receiver on his own team.

What are the Browns going to do with Beckman? Even if he does come back ahead of time next season, it won’t be early as opening day. He could trim some games off his timeline, but how many? Would Week 4 or Week 5 be a realistic goal?

Indianapolis Colts v Cleveland Browns Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images

GM Andrew Berry and head coach Kevin Stefanski did not trade for Beckham – the other regime did. OBJ has a huge contract and may appear what is best for the franchise going forward is to trade him, relieve their salary cap of another high-salaried player and get something in return.

If the Browns do indeed have intentions on trading him even though he remains injured, they are stuck in the “buy high, sell low” category. They traded a first-round pick, a former first-round pick in safety Jabrill Peppers, plus a third-round selection.

For Cleveland, the safety position still remains in chaos since Peppers left. And not that the franchise hasn’t attempted to solve this dilemma, but so far there have been many issues with a laundry list of player names. Hopefully next season when second-rounder Grant Delpit comes back healthy he can match up with this year’s gem Ronnie Harrison (with some Karl Joseph sprinkled in) with the expectation that the position is cured for good.

The point is: OBJ did not come cheap.

At this point, what is he worth? A first-round pick? Second? A third? Less? As a barometer, Antonio Brown was a travesty off-the-field but remained a very talented receiver before he was traded for a third and a fifth.

Probably the best angle for the club to take is to let him play out his contract and hope that he will rebuild his reputation as one of the game’s best receivers. He is a three-time Pro Bowler for starters. That would allow his status to return and then if the front office decides to move him, he would have value. Right now, whatever measure he has is low. Last season, six times in 17 games he had three catches or less.

Currently, with his lack of production numbers, dwindling touchdowns plus his injury history, his trade stock is no longer a first and third with a stud defender thrown into the mix.

And maybe Rapoport’s account has merit. Maybe now is the time to unload him – and his salary. OBJ is set to make $14.5 million this year which is ranked Number 1 on the team. There are always cheaper receivers out there or younger guys who can be found in this year’s draft.

Cleveland Browns v Pittsburgh Steelers Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

Along with Higgins, Jarvis Landry had another productive year topping all Browns receivers with 840 yards on 72 receptions and targeted 101 times. Rookie Donovan Peoples-Jones saw improvement as the season rolled along and had many crucial catches including the game winner against the Bengals in Week 7, the very game OBJ in which hurt.

Trade partners

There may be a legitimate chance that Cleveland elects to trade Beckham – injury and all. His production has tailed off considerably and it might just be time to move on and get whatever they can for him. There’s been speculation around the NFL that GM Andrew Berry could move Beckham in a trade.

So far, the Browns have denied that OBJ is being shopped around for a trade – directly after his knee injury and now.

Where would OBJ go? Which clubs are the best fit and have the biggest need for a star that has some haze?

There have been many instances where a top receiver has fallen from grace only to resurrected on a new team: Randy Moss with the New England Patriots and Amari Cooper going to the Dallas Cowboys come to mind.The San Francisco 49ers tried very hard to trade for him when the New York Football Giants shipped him off to Cleveland. OBJ would become an excellent compliment to TE George Kittle and a favorite target for QB Jimmy Garoppolo. Rookie Brandon Aiyuk led all 49ers receivers with 748 yards, so they desperately need a play maker. It would be interesting to see what kind of chemistry Beckham would have with Garoppolo.

The Patriots are a club that is begging for play makers. It is uncertain if QB Cam Newton will return, but regardless their offense is completely stagnant. Jakobi Meyers had 59 catches for 729 yards, Damiere Byrd netted just 604 yards while first-round draft pick N’Keal Harry, who was supposed to cure their offensive woes, had just 33 receptions for 309 yards. Patriots’ head coach Bill Belichick resurrected Randy Moss’ career, and just might could do the same for Beckham.

Seems unlikely, but Beckham’s family and circle of friends all live in Dallas and nearby Louisiana. The Cowboys don’t seem to need a player like OBJ with the addition of rookie CeeDee Lamb, Michael Gallup and Cooper, but Beckham’s college receivers coach Adam Henry is on the coaching staff there in Dallas.

Jacksonville would become an excellent trade partner. With the assumption that newly-installed head coach Urban Meyer will select Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence with the first overall pick, he will need complimentary play makers. Former LSU grad D.J. Chark led all receivers with 706 yards and five touchdowns. What is fortunate is that the new GM could be looking to make a splash and ditch some of the most expensive contracts of which LB Myles Jack is one of them. The Browns could use a top tackler like Jack who netted 105 total tackles this season.

The Los Angeles Rams are a very good possibility. Despite opening their new stadium this year, once the pandemic restrictions are relaxed and the crowds become larger, the Rams will want to fill as many seats as possible and OBJ gives them that marketability. WR Cooper Cupp can’t stay healthy while the possibility of star receiver Robert Woods pairing with Beckham is very tempting. OBJ and Hollywood would be a match.

Return in 2021?

Cincinnati Bengals v Cleveland Browns Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

What appears the most likely is that Beckham will work his way back into top form and return to play for the Browns in 2021. The fact that the 2020 season ended the way it did for him should become a platform of motivation to prove that he is far too talented a receiver to accept one frustrating season. Add to this that Cleveland is now a proven winner and just pieces from becoming a very good club.

OBJ’s contract contains no guaranteed money, and his star has certainly fallen since being dealt from the Football Giants to Cleveland. It is not certain if the 28-year-old will be with the Browns next year.

Beckham is an exceptional athlete and exciting to watch. He has a very good throwing arm as well and is elusive in the open field. Who can forget about that end around run that sealed the game against the Cowboys? Despite some of the negative publicity he has gotten over the years, his teammates absolutely love him.

So don’t be surprised if OBJ is traded. And be equally astounded if he’s not.

Poll

Put on your GM hat. What would you do with OBJ?

This poll is closed

  • 36%
    Finish out his rehab and let him play
    (572 votes)
  • 29%
    Trade him for draft picks
    (472 votes)
  • 12%
    Trade him for another player straight up
    (197 votes)
  • 2%
    Waive him
    (37 votes)
  • 19%
    Keep him! Use him! We need him!
    (301 votes)
1579 votes total Vote Now