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Odell Beckham Jr.’s Potential Impact Is Still Unclear

Can the free agent wide receiver still be a difference maker for a Super Bowl contender? Plus, Melvin Gordon’s waning status, Zach Wilson’s makeup concerns and more.

It’s Monday, we’ve got a game in Mexico tonight, and a lot to get to for a holiday week…

• Things figure to start ramping up soon on Odell Beckham Jr. The Cowboys, I’m told, are planning to bring him to Texas next week, and the Giants also have tentative plans to give him a look after their Thanksgiving game in Dallas. So the question from there becomes what he’s got left as a player, and how quickly he’ll be able to acclimate.

No two ACL recoveries are the same, but it’s worth considering that Tre’Davious White and Chase Young got hurt three months before Beckham did and still haven’t gotten back. And Lions rookie Jameson Williams was injured a full month before Beckham and was just cleared to practice. Which, to me, means if you’re signing him, you’re probably doing it for the playoffs, because getting him back to the level he’s accustomed to could take time.

That said, we saw in last year’s playoffs what a full-speed Beckham is capable of. He starred for the Rams in wins over the Bucs and 49ers, helped take pressure off Cooper Kupp throughout, and may have wound up winning Super Bowl MVP if he hadn’t gotten hurt that day in Inglewood.

“There’s playmaker [ability] in his history that can give you explosive play as an inside/outside receiver,” said one NFC exec. “He can catch the full route tree and has excellent catch radius. But he is 30 and coming off a second surgery on his knee. Is the speed and explosiveness still there?”

That’s what, over the next couple of weeks, teams will discuss as they weigh how they’ll approach a guy who could, on paper, be a difference-maker in January (and February).

Rams wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. warms up prior to Super Bowl LVI.

Both the timing and size of Odell Beckham Jr.’s potential impact this season clouds his free agency appeal.

• Melvin Gordon’s sudden availability relates to his ball-security issues—the Broncos cut him after he fumbled for a fifth (!) time this year. Those five fumbles, by the way, came through just 90 carries, meaning he was averaging a fumble per 18 carries, which is a rate way too high for a guy who’s averaging just 3.5 yards per carry.

Now, the question is whether or not there’ll be work out there for him. He hits waivers today, and a claiming team would be responsible for the remaining $836,111 left on his contract for 2022—all of which is guaranteed. Which is a fair amount to add for any team in an environment where most of the NFL has less than $5 million in space to work with. And then, there’s the question of what he’s got left.

“He’s a declining, two-down backup with fumbling issues and no special teams value,” said one AFC exec. “A tough roster fit.”

“At this point, he’s a rotational guy on first and second down,” added an AFC GM. “More of a No. 2 or a No. 3.”

So I wouldn’t expect a feeding frenzy for his services.

• One thing I wanted to ask Raiders coach Josh McDaniels about on Sunday night, after Vegas came back to win in Denver, was how he viewed Derek Carr’s emotional press conference a week earlier, and the effect he thought it had on the team.

“He cares a lot,” McDaniels said, “And I think that anybody that's watched us play has seen that we're in every game. With the exception of the New Orleans game, we've been right there, and we know we could've, should've, would've, won a few of them. And we didn't do it. So I think it's just him showing his emotion, which, again, he's been here for a while and he cares and he wants to win. I think there's a lot of us that think we're doing the right things. We just haven't quite got the results that we're looking for yet.

“But I also think that there are some things going in the right direction, for sure. I just attribute his reaction last week to his wanting to get over the hump on some of these. And today, obviously, was a big deal relative to playing in another close game, coming back, behind in the fourth quarter, sending it to overtime and then being able to win it. From his reaction to the way the team responded this whole week was tremendous.

“And I think you can see—we play with a lot of energy. There's a strong feeling among the team for one another, and I'm really happy that they were able to pull this one out today.”

And it seemed pretty clear to me that the team responded, in a positive way, to Carr over the last week.

• While we’re there, I have two leftovers from my conversation with Commanders coach Ron Rivera on Sunday afternoon, as well.

The first was his reaction to how the team rallied around him after he lost his mother, something that was apparent when he said to his team, “My mom would’ve been proud,” after they beat the Eagles last Monday night. As he was addressing the team, someone could be heard yelling. “We’re with you, Coach!”

“It meant a lot. It really did. And to hear the guys there to support me, that was awesome,” he said. “And then watching, I got a chance to see what Terry [McLaurin] did afterwards, after I walked out. And having one of our captains—especially a young man like Terry— step up was incredible. I've been telling people: The reason we signed Terry, it wasn't just a football move. It was an organizational move, and that's the kind of young man that he is.

“So I was real appreciative of the way everybody handled that situation.”

And there was another thing he noticed, too, from that scene.

“I have this mantra that I've kinda started with these guys, and the reason I started was of all the negativity,” he continued. “Everybody talks about what we couldn't do—we can't do this, we can't do this, we can't do this. And I told them, I said, You know what? F--k it. It's not about what we can't do, guys. From now on, it's all about what we can do. Well, Montez Sweat, when I first started, I said, You know what this is about, guys. And Montez said, Yeah, it's about what we can do, Coach.”

It turns out they can do a lot more than most people thought.

And that brings us to the second leftover here—which is the potential return of Chase Young to the lineup, which could raise the ceiling for the Commanders again. The team activated him to the 53-man roster on Monday about a year after he tore his ACL.

"It's exciting to think about it," Rivera said. "It's exciting that if he comes back, and he's playing close to what he can be, I mean it can be very exciting. It really can. And so we'll look forward to see how he is this week. We're gonna activate him, but the big thing is when will he be ready to roll? And when he's ready to roll, we'll get him out there, and we think he'll be just as dynamic as he has been—or very close to it."

Now the question will be when he's actually ready to roll. My understanding is he's still not there yet on what was a very complicated injury (there was more to it than just the ACL). The hope is he'll break through this week, but he didn't look like himself the past couple weeks, and there are no assurances on when he'll get all the way back there—if he does at all—this year. So I'd expect the Commanders to be cautious, and measure their expectations.

• Scary news on Rams QB Matthew Stafford, who went into the concussion protocol on Nov. 9, was cleared to play Sunday, and then got knocked out of that game against the Saints before undergoing an evaluation for another concussion.

It’ll be interesting to see whether Stafford, if he does re-enter the protocol, gets shut down for the year. The Rams are now 3–7 and in last place in the NFC West, and another couple of losses would officially end their title defense, at which point it might not make sense to bring Stafford back to play out the string.

And then, there’s the longer-range question here. Those who’ve worked with Stafford really don’t see him as a guy with plans to play into his 40s. He’s been through a lot physically already. I’ll be interested to see how this might affect how Stafford approaches his future.

We may have seen the last of Matthew Stafford in a Rams uniform this season.

We may have seen the last of Matthew Stafford in a Rams uniform this season.

• Another thing to watch this week—how Jets players answer questions on Zach Wilson’s leadership and, more specifically, how he passed on the chance to take the blame for Sunday’s loss to the Patriots in Foxboro, after piloting an anemic offensive effort that canceled out a real strong afternoon from the team’s burgeoning young defense, with Robert Saleh having declined to declare him starter for Sunday’s game against the Bears.

The trouble Wilson will run into here is that the way he came off on Sunday postgame matches what the perception of him was coming out of BYU two years ago. That he wasn’t elected a captain as a returning starting quarterback for 2020, his final college season, was considered a serious red flag by some teams. And there were people he turned off during the pre-draft process in the spring of 2021.

“I know there were concerns about him being spoiled and entitled, and it came up with us,” said an exec from one team that was doing the work on the quarterbacks that year. “We had scouts that thought he was arrogant, that didn’t like him. My interaction with him, you could see it, but I felt like he was smart enough to know when to turn it on and when to turn it off.”

That the rest of a promising roster looks ready to contend won’t slow the urgency to try and figure out whether Wilson is the answer or not. But it certainly feels like, at this point, the Jets don’t know if he is. And a quarterback with strong ties to their coaching staff—Jimmy Garoppolo—will be available in March. So there’s a lot to figure out over the balance of the season in New York.

Also, if all this isn’t enough, where Wilson is coming out of this week will be magnified by the presence of a quarterback the Jets passed on to draft him, in Justin Fields, standing on the opposite sideline Sunday.

• On the flip side of all that, you have Ravens QB Lamar Jackson, who actually took the blame for his left tackle, Ronnie Stanley, getting hurt against the Panthers on Sunday.

"It was me who hurt him," Jackson said. "So, I'm a little pissed off about that."

How did it happen? Jackson was sacked and rolled into Stanley accidentally. Which sucks, of course. But Jackson’s reaction says a lot on who he is as a teammate, and why people in Baltimore have been so loyal to him over the last five years.

• The status of Patriots center David Andrews’s thigh is a big one to follow over the coming days. New England’s ability to protect its quarterbacks sagged badly in the two games Andrews missed while in the concussion protocol. And so if this one winds up taking him off the field for an extended period, that’d be a pretty big blow for a team vying for position in the AFC wild card picture.

• While we’re there, and on the Thanksgiving night showdown between Minnesota and New England, Justin Jefferson’s turf toe is another one to watch. He said he was fine going into the game, but was held by Dallas to a season-low three catches for 33 yards on Sunday. We’ll see if the Vikings can get him in a better place three days from now.

• It was fun hearing stories of the fans waiting for the Niners at their hotel when they arrived in downtown Mexico City on Sunday night. The fan base down there is vibrant. And while the earning potential isn’t there in that market like it is in the UK or Germany, it’s good for the game that the loyal fans in that part of North America get the chance they’ll get tonight, to have the NFL down there live, if only for a night.

More NFL Coverage:

This Patriots Defense Is a Belichick Masterpiece
Pros and Cons of Odell Beckham Jr. Picking the Cowboys or Giants
Justin Fields Has the Potential to Be a Top-Five Quarterback
Best NFL Week 11 Performances: MMQB Hands Out Game Balls
How the Commanders Saved Their Season by Not Panicking