The Cleveland Browns are expected to release Odell Beckham, Jr. outright today per a report on Pro Football Focus. PFF found out the news last night with the Browns’ plan to make it official today.
“After careful consideration, internal discussions and conversations with Odell and his representation, we’ve determined that it is in the best interest of all parties involved that Odell no longer play for the Browns,” Cleveland GM Andrew Berry said in a statement released by the team. “We appreciate all his efforts and contributions while in Cleveland, but we’ve just reached a point where it is best that we move forward as a team without Odell. We are finalizing the process of granting Odell his release and we wish him well as he continues his career.”
The end result is that OBJ’s career in Cleveland is over.
The release will come with a revised contract that will reduce the team’s obligation to pay him what is owed on his existing contract. He is expected to be signed once he clears waivers and then would become eligible for the balance of his salary termination pay. The challenge for Beckham becomes not making the reduced salary so low that someone claims the contract on waivers. If and when he clears waivers, he will become an unrestricted free agent and can ink a new deal with any team.
This comes on the heels of a hectic week in which OBJ’s father posted a video where his son was supposedly wide-open on passing downs and QB Baker Mayfield failed to get him the ball. Next, former Cavs great Lebron James tweeted out “#FreeOBJ” which spurred a hailstorm of criticism as well as support for the former three-time Pro Bowler.
Since then, he was excused from practice two days in a row. It was reported that head coach Kevin Stefanski had told the Browns players and coaches that Beckham no longer wanted to a roster member. When asked, Stefanski did not deny the report.
Many observers did not believe that Beckham was the issue with a stagnant passing attack in which the leading receiver on the Browns is tight end David Njoku listed as the #83 receiver in the league.
PFF user bobdevo said:
“OBJ is NOT the problem with the Browns. OBJ did not lose to the Steelers. OBJ did not lose to the Cards. OBJ did not lose to the Chiefs. OBJ did not lose to the Chargers. OBJ did not make ill-advised futile 4th down attempts. OBJ did not pass up field goals and leave points on the field. OBJ did not call offensive plays that the defense absolutely anticipated. OBJ did not fail to throw to open receivers time and again.“
Stefanski had gone on record after the Pittsburgh Steelers defeat this past Sunday and stated:
“I need to do a better job of getting Odell Beckham Jr. involved.”
Four days later, OBJ’s involvement in pro football is attempting to learn where his next home will be.
It was highly-expected that the Browns would move OBJ before the trade deadline this past Tuesday and had several offers. One that was a serious trade partner were the New Orleans Saints. The sticking point was the amount of money Cleveland would be stuck with in any potential trade going forward. Plus, any club that traded for him would essentially owe him $8 million for the remainder of the season.
Beckham came to the Browns in 2019 in a blockbuster trade that almost broke the internet. He had just signed a huge five-year $95 million contract extension with the New York Football Giants that included $65 million in guarantees. The next year, the Football Giants traded him to Cleveland for a first-round draft pick, safety Jabrill Peppers (a former first-rounder of the Browns), guard Kevin Zeitler and a third-round pick. The Browns received defensive end Olivier Vernon in the deal.
OBJ made the Pro Bowl his first three seasons with the Giants in a period in which he had 457 targets, 288 receptions, 4.122 yards and scored 35 touchdowns.
He was the youngest player to be featured on the cover of the video game “Madden.” On January 31, 2015, Beckham was named Offensive Rookie of the Year by the Associated Press. In 2016, he was voted by other NFL players as the 10th best athlete in the league on the “NFL Top 100 Players of 2016.” The following season, that elevated to eighth best on the 2017 list. Even when he played only four games in 2017, he was ranked #77 in 2018 followed by 23rd in 2019.
During his time with Cleveland Beckham netted 210 targets, 114 receptions, 1,586 yards with just seven scores. This season alone, he had a paltry 17 receptions for 232 yards, his lowest of his eight-year career.
Beckham has had his share of injuries. His final year with the Giants he had a quad issue. In 2017 it was a fractured left ankle injury that limited his playing time to just four games. During the 2014 season he sustained two hamstring injuries. Last season with the Browns he suffered a horrific knee injury.
The hit for the Browns comes from the initial trade with the Giants in which now, Cleveland will get nothing in return for what was once a dynamic playmaker. Essentially, they bought very high and sold for nothing. And the receiver room this year has been one of the club’s worst position groups so it’s not like this team doesn’t need him. They need somebody to step up and the hope was that he would become a valued member of the roster going forward.
Here’s the rub: if he is claimed off waivers, he will end up with a club with a losing record in all likelihood. But what if he clears waivers? He can then sign with any team he wishes. Baltimore? Cincinnati? Pittsburgh? Or perhaps to a club that has playoff aspirations inside the conference such as New England or Buffalo.
While teams always have ways to create salary-cap space, as of Friday morning, only nine had over $7.25 million in cap space which is the balance of OBJ’s contract: the Jacksonville Jaguars, Philadelphia Eagles, Denver Broncos, Seattle Seahawks, Carolina Panthers, Los Angeles Chargers, Pittsburgh Steelers, Washington and Cincinnati Bengals.
The Los Angeles Chargers would be a dream come true for Beckham. He is originally from Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The Saints were the most interested at the trade deadline and OBJ would essentially be going home. He has lots of family that remain in Louisiana. Both Pittsburgh and Cincinnati have the cap space to absorb his contract rate.
The terms of the revised deal have not been available, but could determine whether another club would take a flyer on the former darling of the league. One question might remain is that if he does get claimed on waivers for a team such as Detroit, Jacksonville, or the New York Jets, would he actually show up for a franchise destined to lose the majority of its games this year.
This will come a point that his remaining salary just might become low enough for another club to claim him before he clears waivers.
Perhaps a team for which Beckham has virtually no interest in playing for.