Reflecting on the Odell Beckham Jr Trade After One Year
It was the trade heard around the world, the deal that many Giants fans hoped would never come to fruition and when it did, caused a wide range of emotions from anger to shock to disbelief for days--no, make that weeks--after it was finalized.
One year ago, after general manager Dave Gettleman kept insisting that the Giants didn't sign Beckham to trade him, they found an offer they couldn't refuse from the Cleveland Browns.
And so Gettleman, made the most daring move of his career since rescinding the franchise tag off then-Carolina cornerback Josh Norman.
Gettleman traded receiver Odell Beckham Jr to the Cleveland Browns for safety Jabrill Peppers, and a pair of draft picks the Giants turned into defensive lineman Dexter Lawrence and edge rusher Oshane Ximines.
A year later, it's probably too soon to say for sure who won that trade. Neither team made the playoffs last year, the Browns winning just two more games at 6-10 than the Giants at 4-12.
Similarly, an argument could be made that none of the players involved in the trade for either side was the difference-maker in the teams' record. However, while in terms of individual performance, Beckham did record another 1,000-yard receiving season finishing with 74 receptions for 1,035 yards but only four touchdowns, his second-lowest career total in a season.
What the Numbers Say
If a post-season qualification is the sole criteria for naming a winner in this trade, then chances are it's going to be a draw for at least another year, if not longer as both teams again look to get on the right track with new head coaches.
If we're looking at numbers, the Giants, who sought to replace Beckham's production via a "village" of receivers, finished with 4,405 receiving yards in 2018 versus the 4,070 yards last year. Meanwhile, their receiving touchdown total rose from 22 in 2018, Beckham's final season, to 30 last year.
That, by the way, was with a rookie quarterback under center for most of the season.
Meanwhile, the three defensive players the Giants acquired--Peppers, Lawrence and Ximines--all play very different roles than a receiver, so a straight apples-to-apples comparison probably isn't fair.
But let's look at the upside of the three, all of whom are still on their rookie contracts.
Lawrence, chosen with the 17th overall pick in the draft, finished as the third-best player on the Giants defense, per Pro Football Focus, his 30 quarterback pressures fourth on the defense and his 24 stops tied for sixth.
That's not bad production considering Lawrence was eased into the defense in the beginning and didn't start to take off until almost a full month into the season.
Peppers, thought more to be a box safety, was steady in his role even though his season was cut short due to a back injury. He finished tied for third on the team in stops (27) with now-former linebacker Alec Ogletree, and was third on the team in total tackles, the lone blemish being that he was also second on the team (behind Antoine Bethea) is missed tackles with 12.
In coverage, Peppers was targeted 33 times, allowing 22 completions for 230 yards and no touchdowns. He came up with one interception and three passes defensed in those opportunities on his way to a respectable 74.1 rating.
Ximines, the third-round pick acquired as part of the trade, finished with 4.5 sacks, tying him for second on the team with fellow edge rusher Lorenzo Carter. If Ximines can bolster his play against the run, he could be in line for more snaps and opportunities to make plays in his second season.
What I Think
I've always thought Beckham is a tremendous talent, but even after he signed his five-year, $95 million contract extension, I never for a moment thought he'd finish that contract with this team.
What I didn't think, mainly because of the dead money involved ($16 million), was that the Giants would look to unload the contract as quickly as they did.
I understand why they did it and why they signed him when they did. It's a lot easier to trade a player who's under contract for multiple years plus those deals are typically more attractive for the acquiring team given that the majority of the guaranteed money is the signing bonus--which in the case of a trade revers to the team trading the contract, not the acquiring team.
In other words, if the Browns decide to cut or trade Beckham before March 18 this year, when $11.15 million of his $14 million base salary becomes guaranteed, they'll be able to do so with zero dead money hitting their books.
The Giants, likely figuring they were still a ways away from being competitive, fell on the dead money sword. However, in having cleared out that total in one swoop rather than designate Beckham as a post-June 1 cap transaction last year (a move that would have meant carrying double-digit dead money on their cap again this year) the Giants are in great shape to fill some of their glaring roster holes with free agents.
One can certainly point to the off-field antics that created headaches. Still, some believe that it was his interview with ESPN in which he went gave off conflicting vibes regarding his happiness in New York after signing his multiyear extension as the straw that broke the camel's back.
From a football perspective, the argument that defenders could hone in on Beckham and "take him away" in the offense never made much sense, as the combination of a lack of creativity in getting receivers open and others failing to win one-on-one matchups were contributors.
What the Fans Think
I put the question to Giants fans on Twitter. For the most part, many fans felt good about the trade, including some who admitted to initially hating it.
But there are still some others whose opinions remain unchanged, as shown in the Twitter thread below.
The Bottom Line
As is the case with draft classes, this trade will probably take a couple more years before a clear cut "winner" can be declared--and even then there will likely be continued debate depending on the criteria used to assess the trade.