As we wind through a potentially historic NFL offseason where a number of high-profile players have already been dealt for one reason or another, a loud faction of football yellers and screamers have honed in on Giants receiver Odell Beckham Jr.
They are right about one thing: There is an interesting conversation to be had about trading the game’s second-best wide receiver. Beckham, who is playing under his club option season, seems destined for the same kind of icy, prolonged trip through years of franchise tagging that Le’Veon Bell is currently battling. If you think it might be a good idea to quietly dangle him to a team stocked with picks and cap space, one that might be able to front-load a high-end but ultimately risk-averse extension for Beckham while returning a few top-100 draft picks that could help you rebuild your offensive line, consider me attentive.
If your thoughts contain the word “distraction,” it’s time to hang up the landline and stop phoning your local radio station.
It’s impossible to ignore this horde of pearl-clutchers who have been frantically calling for Beckham’s removal after an inconclusive, blurry seven-second video of Beckham surfaced a few weeks ago. Maybe there were drugs in the room. There was definitely a delicious-looking pepperoni pizza. What a heinous crime for a good-looking 25-year-old millionaire trying to enjoy the few weeks out of the year he doesn’t have to worry about his primary occupation—making you forget about the world for a few hours each Sunday by making balletic catches in the end zone.
While this specific type of sports human is simply the runoff of an otherwise reasonable collection of people, they make up fandom’s current state of play. There is more information at our disposal than any time in world history, but let’s please rest on tired clichés; on some golden-but-hazy idea of proper behavior we cultivated while frantically cheering for Lawrence Taylor in the 1980s. What a way to follow your last big hit: Let’s sanctimoniously complain about the Giants benching Eli Manning after we spent the previous five years begging for the team to bench him.
Beckham, along with a momentarily talented and in-prime defense, lifted the Giants to their only playoff appearance since the team’s 2011 Super Bowl season. After he went down with a season-ending ankle injury in ’17, the Giants’ offense put up just three passing performances of 250 yards or more. Beckham has invented moves that wriggle him out of tight, bracketed coverage designed to shut him down. He injected life into the back end of Eli Manning’s career. Pull up alongside any field where a group of kids are still interested enough in the sport to be tossing a football around, and watch them all try and pull the ball down with one hand behind their head. They'll show up to watch him play—just look around the first few rows of seating during warmups.
Getting rid of him to set some kind of example about how someone spends his or her downtime is stupid.
Still want to talk about trading Beckham? Let’s think about it like a general manager might. As Mike Garafolo of NFL Network noted at this year’s combine, Beckham has been telling “people close to him” that he envisions his next mega-deal averaging in the low $20 million range, which would put him $3 million per season above Antonio Brown of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
If that’s a number he’s digging his heels in for, a trade might be the smartest move for Gettleman, who, according to Overthecap.com is currently over the salary cap by a few thousand dollars after making Nate Solder the highest paid tackle in NFL history. Should Gettleman believe that QB Eli Manning is worth keeping around and if he is unable to get out of recent long-term deals signed by Jason Pierre-Paul and Olivier Vernon (they would cost an estimated $18 million in dead money if released after 2018), it would be difficult for the team to operate a healthy budget and carry a $20-million-per-year wide receiver.
If the Giants were truly blown away by an offer (NJ.com compiled a list of compensation for wide receiver trades of late, with Brandin Cooks to the Patriots being the closest comparable type of deal and even then, it would have to be far more enticing) it would make sense to capitalize. The Broncos, Browns, Jets, Colts, Bears, Texans, Titans, 49ers and Broncos all have more than $40 million still in the war chest. Only the Texans and Titans don’t have a top-10 pick. Most could put together an offer worth staying on the phone for, which could grow more attractive when considering that Beckham could once again spend his offseason away from the team as he awaits a fair market extension (another point of contention for fans who fail to understand that an important player can, and should exhaust every bit of leverage they have on a team before committing to activities that may cause a career-threatening injury). Unless the Giants come near his ideal number, this is bound to happen.
On the other hand, why might it not happen? Because signing Solder clearly indicates that the Giants are attempting to squeeze out the last bit of toothpaste remaining in the Manning era. That, or they’re preparing to develop a rookie quarterback who would require a comfortable pocket atmosphere to properly function. In both of those scenarios, Beckham is the type of special athlete who can negate poor quarterback play. He fits into the plan. They can make the finances work by leaning into a few players who could use a pay cut, or converting the salary on some of the pricier stars.
It's just difficult to ignore that the current cap system rewards certain aspects of the financial tanking strategy (let your replaceable players walk in free agency and stockpile compensatory picks while dealing your soon-to-be free agent stars for greater draft capital) and there are deep-pocketed teams who have emerged from such a course willing and able to absorb Beckham and compete now. The Giants are in a strange place, stuck between who they were and who they want to be.
Imagine calling into a talk radio station to advocate for this kind of pragmatism. Now that's something worth listening to.
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