Recent Super Bowl LVI champion Odell Beckham Jr. is facing free agency this offseason. Beckham has expressed his desire to remain in Los Angeles and the Rams let it be known that the feeling was mutual.
Unfortunately, Beckham suffered a torn ACL in the Rams’ Super Bowl victory. The knee injured was the same one Beckham injured in the 2020 season. The re-injury combined with the late timing of the injury should lead to Beckham missing time in the 2022 NFL season.
Normally, a player with an expiring contract like Beckham’s would be out of luck, as they wouldn’t be eligible for injury protection. But, due to pending arbitration between the league and the union, Beckham may end up qualifying for the protection.
The Collective Bargaining Agreement provides injury protection for players with non-guaranteed salaries in the season after they suffer an injury that prevents them from playing. When Beckham was injured, although he was technically headed to free agency, he had future years on his contract.
The purpose of the future years was to spread out Beckham’s cap hit. He signed a fully guaranteed one-year deal for $1.25MM. The contract would be paid out as a base salary in 2021 of $750,000 with a $500,000 signing bonus. The signing bonus was structured to pay out $100,000 annually over the next five years. The first $100,000 would count against the Rams’ 2021 cap along with the base salary. The remaining $400,000 would count against the Rams’ 2022 cap space.
The arbitration mentioned above is over whether or not those voided years in Beckham’s contract could make him eligible for the CBA’s injury protection. The injury protection would entitle Beckham to a salary up to $2MM. In the voided contract, Beckham’s base salary for 2022 is $1.12MM, meaning that, if the arbitration rules in favor of Beckham, Beckham will receive the entirety of that amount.
The good news is that, even if the arbitration rules against him, Beckham’s 2021 contract had $3MM worth of team-based incentives built in, and, en route to winning the Super Bowl, Beckham cashed in on every single incentive.
Still, this all is hypothetical. In theory, knowing the Rams would like to keep Beckham in LA, and acknowledging the crucial role he played in adding the Lombardi to their trophy room, the Rams will give Beckham a deal indicative of his contributions, despite not being legally obligated to do so.