Hopefully this week’s a little more normal than last week. Let’s kick it off here …
• Odell Beckham Jr.'s status is up in the air for Thursday’s game with the Broncos. And missing that one would mean he’d have just one game left, against Pittsburgh on Halloween, before the Nov. 2 trade deadline. I’ve been asked a bunch if Beckham could be moved. I think there are a few reasons why it won’t happen.
- The Browns are a little thin at receiver. Moving Beckham could leave Cleveland an injury away from being in trouble there (unless rookie Anthony Schwartz ascends faster than guys in his position normally do).
- As of right now, Beckham has $9.7 million left for 2021. Just eight teams have that much cap space, and only one of those eight has a winning record. That one, the Chargers, doesn’t need a receiver. And sure, teams could move money around, but a lot of teams have already pushed cap dollars into 2022, and a cap spike isn’t coming until 2023.
- Beckham had 1,305, 1,450 and 1,367 yards his first three years in the league, and caught 35 touchdown passes. Since then? He’s been hurt a lot, with two 1,000-yard seasons mixed in there—1,052 yards his last year in New York, and 1,035 yards his first year in Cleveland. Over the last five years: 213 total catches, 2,911 yards and 16 touchdowns. Fact is, it’s been a while since he’s been truly elite.
And that leads to the last part of this, which involves Browns GM Andrew Berry—I’d just be surprised if he sells low on Beckham. This is about as damaged as Beckham’s value has been in a while, and getting another team to take on his money, based on the production, is a big ask (though if Beckham rebounds, the contract becomes a huge asset). So I can see why it would be worthwhile for the Browns to maintain their depth at receiver, and try to get Beckham right, rather than going and getting a middle-round pick or two for him. I think he stays a Brown.
• Things could change, but this figures to be a quiet trade deadline in general. Twenty of the league’s 32 teams have less than $5 million in cap space as it stands. Here are the 12 who have more than that …
- Jaguars (1–5): $28.77 million.
- Eagles (2–4): $21.03 million.
- Broncos (3–3): $15.37 million.
- Panthers (3–3): $12.47 million.
- Seahawks (2–4): $12.32 million.
- Washington (2–4): $11.28 million.
- Chargers (4–2): $10.58 million.
- Steelers (3–3): $9.98 million.
- Browns (3–3): $9.39 million.
- Bengals (4–2): $8.78 million.
- Texans (1–5): $6.58 million.
- Titans (3–2): $6.14 million.
And a few of those teams (Eagles, Browns, Titans) are already heavy on cap commitments for next year, which limits their ability to move money around to fit in a newcomer. Cap space will be a factor, without question, as we creep closer to Nov. 2, and my feeling is those who end up getting moved could be players, like Marlon Mack, for example, who are on the back end of affordable rookie contracts.
• We mentioned in the Monday Morning Quarterback column how at the beginning of the season, the Ravens really believed their defense had a chance to be a throwback to the Ray Lewis–Ed Reed days, with talent and depth all over the place. That point of view might’ve seemed a little sunny (even unrealistic?) after Marcus Peters went down, and during shootouts with the Raiders, Chiefs and Colts. But on Sunday, I think we got a glimpse into the vision John Harbaugh and coordinator Wink Martindale had for the group—one capable of overwhelming with its talent, but also smart enough to implement game plans built to befuddle young quarterbacks like Justin Herbert. After getting to see that, it was fun talking to Calais Campbell, who pretty clearly still thinks the Ravens have an ability to get to the level they did Sunday more consistently. “This defense is definitely going to try to be special, we are stacked at every position,” says the 14-year vet. “We have room for improvement still, we need to start getting our hands on more balls, start creating more pressure, and I would love for us to score on defense. But when we're playing physical football, we're tackling low and we're just playing to our standard. I think we're the best defense in football, and the best team in football too. … Our defense has definitely got the potential to be as good as any defense I’ve played on.” Campbell, for reference, was part of three top-10 defenses in Arizona, and played on the Jaguars’ smothering unit of 2017. So his words there do carry some weight.
• Former Alabama teammates Mac Jones and Trevon Diggs had a really good on-field back-and-forth on Sunday—with Diggs picking off Jones and running it back for a pick-six on a fourth-quarter play, and then Jones returning the favor on the next snap from scrimmage by going up top to Kendrick Bourne, and right at Diggs, for a 75-yard score to give New England the lead back in the waning moments. Diggs’s Cowboys wound up prevailing, but I figured I ought to ask him about his old friend. Here’s what he said: “He's a great football player. Real smart. Real smart. The sky's the limit for that guy. I have the ultimate respect for him. Stays very poised, makes all the right throws, and I got a lot of respect for that guy.”
• It’s funny to look back and laugh off Ja’Marr Chase’s summer struggles. But the interesting thing is that the Bengals were legitimately concerned as it was happening—because there was no history of Chase having issues with drops, and there wasn’t really any explanation as to why this particular problem would crop up. When I swung Cincinnati for a day in August, Chase was the last guy on the field, there with a trainer working the JUGGS machine. And whatever it was then, Chase has clearly worked through it. He’s on pace for 1,567 yards and 14 touchdowns on 77 catches, and looks like he was well worth the No. 5 pick in the draft. And that’s for everything, right down to the blocking we all saw in Detroit on Sunday night.
• I appreciate Jamal Adams’ confidence, but he really walked right into this one.
• The Colts have guarded optimism right now with Carson Wentz, and it comes back to Frank Reich’s consistent message to his old/new quarterback: Don’t play Superman, just play quarterback. It was mentioned in Indy’s win over Miami, it showed up again last week in a close Monday loss to the Ravens, and things really came around against the Texans on Sunday. And yes, I should preface everything here with that it was, in fact, Houston. Wentz only threw the ball 20 times, but got it to seven different receivers, and he hasn’t thrown a pick in a month. You can count me among the people who got worried about Wentz a little too early. It looks like Reich has the QB on his way. Maybe he won’t be the guy he was in 2017, pre-injury, again. Maybe he will be. Either way, it looks like he’s past the mess of last year now.
• This is the first week players on PUP are eligible to return, and that means Stephon Gilmore will be on the practice field in Charlotte, more proof that his injury management became a leverage point in his contract dispute with the Patriots. A smart acquisition for Carolina, too. He’ll be very good for the Panthers’ young corners, Jaycee Horn (who’ll be out until at least December), C.J. Henderson and Donte Jackson, and has a chance to make the position a real strength for the team as he plays for his next payday, be it in Carolina or elsewhere. I’m excited to see how this one goes.
• After his team’s 34–11 loss to the Bengals, Lions coach Dan Campbell got my attention when talking about Jared Goff: “I think he needs to step up more than he has. … He’s gonna need to put a little weight on his shoulders and make some throws and do some things.” The public challenge to his quarterback was an interesting one for Campbell to make, and it does make you wonder if Detroit is evaluating him here for the future too. Right now, Goff’s 86.9 rating is right in the neighborhood of Jalen Hurts, Taylor Heinicke and Tua Tagovailoa, and that sort of production probably wouldn’t be enough to stop the Lions from looking for another answer at the position in 2022. So we’ll see if Goff can level up a little.
• Going into Monday night, Julio Jones has 12 catches for 204 yards for the Titans. He hasn’t scored a touchdown yet. He’s been banged up. There’s a lot of season to go, of course, and maybe we see him take a step forward against the Bills. But at this point, we’re seeing some of why the market wasn’t so hot for Jones in the spring.