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Los Angeles Was the One Place That Made Sense All Along for Odell Beckham Jr.

With the Rams, OBJ can be a star among stars instead of a cog in a machine.
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Last season, the Buccaneers knocked the rust of cynicism off the lot of us when they compiled a roster of aging or discarded former stars and high draft picks and romped their way to the Super Bowl.

For a time, it seemed like empty showmanship. Here was an assembly of recognizable names packaged together like a Las Vegas variety show to sell tickets. The next thing you know, Leonard Fournette was bulling over teams in the playoffs, a slender Rob Gronkowski was picking up chunk yardage on classic Tom Brady brain-meld connection throws, and Antonio Brown looked a lot like the promising receiver who abandoned the Steelers in an effort to choose his own destination.

We bring this up because last year’s Tampa Bay talent horde may be instructive as we watch the Rams attempt a similar accumulation while the season winds onto its second half. Put another way: It may not be a good idea to roll our eyes at Thursday’s news that the Rams signed Odell Beckham Jr. Beckham’s departure from New York, subsequent injuries and reemergence in a less receiver-centric offense in Cleveland don’t mean he is no longer a generational talent.

Beckham could be the kind of piece that takes the Rams from securing a Super Bowl bid to making it almost impossible for any other team to win the thing. In the right set of hands, be it Bruce Arians or Sean McVay, the right kind of talent doesn’t age or decay. It can be weaponized from a fossilized state.

Odell Beckham Jr. signs his autograph for fans

Beckham has thirsted for an opportunity like this throughout his career. The Rams love to line up three elite wide receivers and gun the football. Matthew Stafford has by far the biggest arm of any quarterback Beckham has played with, and the propensity for McVay to knife opposing defenses affords Stafford all the time in the world to allow longer routes to develop. That gives Beckham a chance to flash both his creativity and his unique movement skills. Take a quick look at the Rams’ route charts from this season and tell me that the vertical, party-streamer-like display is not the ideal home for someone who has made some of the best downfield catches of the decade.

More than this, it almost guarantees that no team, especially during a defensive back shortage, is going to be able to adequately defend the Rams so long as Beckham, Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods remain healthy. Los Angeles has become the destination Tampa Bay was a year ago, leading us to believe that each year some team will enter the year with a mosquito light glow to which all unhappy and underserved stars gravitate.

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Beckham can return to the kind of player whose theatrics helped elevate and define a game. Unlike a Browns offense that was never developed with him in mind, forcing him into the role of replaceable cog, he can reclaim his spark as a critical piece of a high-wire passing act—a team that throws on well over half its downs and has a higher passing success rate than any other team in the league.

Plenty of kind words have been written about Rams general manager Les Snead’s aggressiveness, which led Los Angeles to one Super Bowl and now places it on the doorstep of another. This move, like the Von Miller trade that preceded it, means a lot in the grand scheme of how the NFL operates. It’s good for the game. It’s good for the market. It’s good for the team. But mostly, it’s good for the idea that a roster is never complete, and that when a team amasses this kind of star power the only option is to keep its foot on the pedal, and that coaches need to be good enough to open their minds and adjust.

It has become a roster-building strategy unto its own, one that the Buccaneers owe last year’s Super Bowl success to and one the Rams hope will yield a similar result.

In the waning moments of Thursday’s transaction, Beckham was reportedly deciding between the Rams and the Packers. Throughout the week a handful of anonymous leaks linked him to various offensive-minded teams like the Saints and Chiefs.

While that may have been true, Los Angeles was the one destination that made sense all along. It was the one place that understood what Beckham was and what he could be again. It was one of a few places that could promise him that all was not lost—that here, he was still a star among stars. 

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