Odell Beckham Jr.

AFC Rumors: OBJ, Patriots, Miller, Raiders

Closing out the worst season of his six-year career, from a per-game production standpoint, Odell Beckham Jr. did not say whether he wants to be part of the 2020 Browns. He’s under contract through 2023.

I couldn’t sit here and tell you whether I’m going to be here, want to be here, don’t want to be here,” Beckham said, via Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com, adding that Jarvis Landry‘s presence has energized him about being with the Browns. “This is exactly where I’m at now and I wouldn’t rather be anywhere else. God has a plan. In the offseason, everything will figure itself out. I feel like I’ve been here before, answering questions about the next team when I’m on a team already. That’s just something I’m going to tune out for right now. Catch me in the offseason and we’ll see what happens.”

Despite Beckham’s disappointing year, the Browns will surely attempt to see if their recent trade acquisition can build chemistry with Baker Mayfield and bounce back in 2020. Beckham’s contract having no more guaranteed money on it, thanks to the Giants taking that on, would make the three-time Pro Bowler an interesting trade piece — if this situation did progress to that point. Beckham is due $14MM in 2020.

Here is the latest from the AFC:

  • Tom Brady sought a longer commitment from the Patriots this year, but given one-year pay bump the sides agreed on, NBC Sports Boston’s Tom Curran expects the iconic quarterback to depart in 2020. Brady’s age figures to be a sticking point for Bill Belichick signing off on a multiyear deal, per Curran, just as it seemed to be in recent years. A scenario where Brady tries to play until age 45 elsewhere would obviously create a major need for the Pats, who traded Brady’s would-be heir apparent to the 49ers two years ago, and would thrust them to the center of what will be a complicated QB marketplace.
  • As for Antonio Brown coming back to the Patriots to aid the defending Super Bowl champions’ receiving situation, that seems next to impossible. The free agent wide receiver shared a social media post (Twitter link) questioning Robert Kraft‘s desire to win (and one that referenced his alleged acts in the Florida spa sting). Brown, who has filed grievances against the Patriots, figures to be one of the most controversial free agents in NFL history in 2020.
  • Von Miller is battling an MCL sprain, one that forced him to miss his first game since he suffered an ACL tear in December 2013. The Broncos‘ star pass rusher is iffy for Sunday’s game against the Texans. The ninth-year linebacker indicated (via Nicki Jhabvala of The Athletic, subscription required) he should not play until he can utilize his array of pass-rushing moves, pointing to him missing at least one more week.
  • The Raiders worked out tight ends Matt Flanagan, Pharoah McKever and Bryce Williams this week, Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle tweets. Oakland also auditioned tight end Cole Wick, who booked the emergency tight end gig.

Odell Beckham Jr. Believes NFL Is Targeting Him For PED Tests

Browns wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. believes he is being targeted by the league in the performance enhancing drug testing process, according to Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com. After Cleveland’s win on Thursday against the Steelers Beckham told reporters, “[The NFL] made me come in Monday when we had an off day. Had a drug test… Made me come in Thursday after the game. Had another drug test.”

The NFL would not respond specifically to Beckham’s accusation, per Cleveland.com, but NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy broadly denied the claims in a statement to the site. McCarthy pointed out that “Neither the union nor league are involved in the selection process.”

Beckham is not the first player to accuse the league of manipulating the PED testing process. Last season, safety Eric Reid accused the league of similar malfeasance. Reid had raised legal claims against the league alongside quarterback Colin Kaepernick in a collusion lawsuit and claimed the league was set on finding dirt on him. However, an official investigation found no wrongdoing by the league in Reid’s case.

In Beckham’s case, there is even less reason to believe the league would have any interest in wrongdoing. While Beckham has struggled this season, his first in Cleveland, he remains one of the league’s biggest celebrities and most popular players.

Trade Rumors: Williams, P2, OBJ

With the trade deadline coming up at the end of the month, and with NFL general managers expecting an active trade season, let’s round up a few of the biggest trade rumors floating around this morning:

  • Multiple teams have inquired about the availability of Jets DE Leonard Williams, per Adam Schefter of ESPN.com. New York is reportedly not interested in dealing Williams, who is in the last year of his rookie contract, at this time, but that could change. Indeed, Ralph Vacchiano of SNY.tv says multiple sources expect GM Joe Douglas to be extremely active over the next few weeks. Schefter suggests that a third- and fifth-round draft choice may be what it takes for an interested club to land Williams, and Kelechi Osemele, Trumaine Johnson, and even Le’Veon Bell could also be on the move (though the last we heard, there were no trade talks surrounding Bell).
  • In recent weeks, the Cardinals have gotten calls from at least three teams interested in trading for cornerback Patrick Peterson, per Schefter. Peterson is currently serving a six-game ban for violating the league’s PED policy, but we heard several weeks ago that Arizona has no interest in dealing him. According to Schefter, that stance has not changed, as the Cardinals have turned away all potential suitors.
  • Although you won’t find it on PFR, there was apparently a report this past week suggesting that the Browns were listening to offers for receiver Odell Beckham Jr. However, Cleveland GM John Dorsey called that report “fake news,” per Schefter. Dorsey said he has not taken any trade calls on OBJ and has no interest in doing so.
  • If the Bills beat the Dolphins next week to improve to 5-1, Joe Buscaglia of The Athletic expects Buffalo GM Brandon Beane to work the phones in search of a wide receiver, defensive tackle, and/or offensive lineman.

OBJ: Giants Fit ‘Wasn’t Working Anymore’

Although Odell Beckham Jr. stayed away from almost all of the Browns’ OTAs, not reporting to his new team until mandatory minicamp, the Pro Bowl wide receiver views Cleveland as a better fit for him than New York would have been going forward.

I just felt with the Giants I was just stuck at a place that wasn’t working for me anymore,” Beckham said, via Complex.com’s Jacob Davey. “I felt like I wasn’t going to be able to reach my full potential there. Mentally, physically, spiritually, everything I felt capable of doing, I just couldn’t see it happening there.”

The 26-year-old wideout certainly had a tumultuous run in the Big Apple, his most recent two seasons cut short by injuries. The Giants traded Beckham for Jabrill Peppers, along with first- and third-round picks, in March. GM Dave Gettleman pulled the trigger after repeatedly saying he did not extend Beckham to trade him. The Giants started 1-7 in each of the past two seasons.

Beckham was part of several headline-driving stories during his five-year New York stay, one of which — an ESPN interview that criticized Eli Manning and questioned the Giants’ new offensive system — irking Pat Shurmur and leading to the wideout apologizing to the team midway through last season.

On the field, however, Beckham remains one of the league’s best. In 2016, the most recent of his three Pro Bowl slates, Beckham played a key role in the Giants reaching the playoffs. Though the 2014 first-round pick missed 16 games over the past two seasons, his 92.8 receiving yards per game rank second all time.

I think allowing me to be in an environment where I can be myself and give it a different approach, I feel like my football will benefit,” Beckham said.I’m just excited about being able to play football again and not have to deal with all the other stuff and politics that came with my previous role.”

The sixth-year receiver now joins longtime friend and former LSU teammate Jarvis Landry in northeast Ohio. That duo will be tasked with being an essential part of ending the Browns’ 16-season playoff drought. The five-year, $90MM extension Beckham signed in 2018 has him tethered to the Browns through 2023.

I’m very excited by the culture at the Browns. It’s been building over the years, and they’ve got players over there who I just know I’m gonna click with,” Beckham said. “Jarvis is a brother of mine, and we dreamed of this moment. It’s just crazy that it’s actually happening.”

Browns GM John Dorsey On Key Players, Draft Plans

Browns GM John Dorsey addressed the media this morning and provided a number of noteworthy tidbits. Here are some highlights (compiled via the Twitter accounts of Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal and Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com):

On the status of RB Duke Johnson, who requested a trade a few weeks ago:

Dorsey said that Johnson’s trade request does not change how the club views him, and that he still envisions a key role for Johnson in the Browns’ offense. Johnson has not been with the team since the offseason workout program began on April 1, but there has been communication between the team and Johnson’s agent. There is still no word on whether Johnson will report for mandatory minicamp in June, but it sounds as though Dorsey is not particularly keen to honor Johnson’s trade request at this time (which means there may not be a particularly large market for his services).

On trading into the first round:

Dorsey did not rule out the possibility of getting his club back into the first round of this year’s draft, and he acknowledged the benefit of getting the potential fifth-year option for a top collegiate prospect. He said he has talked to teams picking in the bottom of the first round about a potential trade, but he added that he always does that as a part of his due diligence. The Browns’ first draft choice this year is the No. 49 overall selection, so they would need to give up a lot to jump at least 17 spots into the first round.

On Odell Beckham Jr.:

Dorsey said OBJ has not reported to the team for voluntary workouts, but he does not sound concerned. He said it would be nice to have the star receiver present, but he added that Beckham is a professional who understands what he needs to do to get ready for the season.

On Kareem Hunt:

Dorsey said that Hunt has “worked his fanny off” both with the team and in the community, and he is impressed with the progress Hunt has made.

On Morgan Burnett:

Dorsey sees the newly-acquired defender as the Browns’ starting strong safety.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Examining How The OBJ Trade Came Together

Ever since the blockbuster trade that sent Odell Beckham Jr. to the Browns last month, reports have trickled in that have allowed us to piece together how the deal ultimately unfolded. But in an excellent piece that examines the timeline of the trade in detail, Pat McManamon and Jordan Raanan of ESPN.com provide a comprehensive look at what is likely to be the biggest blockbuster of the offseason, which could have massive ramifications on both of the league’s conferences.

The entire piece is worth a read, but the highlights are below (some of this has already been reported, but it helps put everything in context):

  • The Browns had been monitoring the Beckham situation as far back as March 2018 — before OBJ signed his five-year, $90MM extension with the Giants — but New York had made it clear that it would not trade Beckham for less than two first-round picks. Since Cleveland was holding the No. 1 and No. 4 overall selections last year and was unwilling to part with either, no discussions ever took place between the two clubs.
  • But OBJ’s relationship with the Giants deteriorated throughout the 2018 campaign, so the Browns kept Beckham in mind, knowing that if there was even a one percent chance New York could be persuaded to pull the trigger, Cleveland would try to break down the door. The fact that Browns GM John Dorsey and Giants GM Dave Gettleman have been friends for 37 years was certainly a major factor in pushing the deal along.
  • Gettleman did call the Bills early last month to discuss OBJ after Buffalo reportedly showed interest in acquiring Antonio Brown, but the Bills’ involvement in the Beckham sweepstakes was so minimal that the idea never reached head coach Sean McDermott‘s desk.
  • On the other hand, Gettleman did have numerous conversations with 49ers GM John Lynch — who wanted OBJ badly — over the course of a few weeks. Lynch was willing to swap 2019 first-round picks with the Giants (No. 2 for No. 6), but he was not willing to give up the No. 2 pick and leave his team with no selections in the first round, so that became the sticking point in the deal.
  • Ultimately, the Browns got word that the 49ers were in serious pursuit of Beckham, so Dorsey decided it was time to act. When the Giants and Browns were discussing a deal for Olivier Vernon, Dorsey brought up Beckham, and the trade came together shortly thereafter.

49ers Did Not Pursue Antonio Brown

The 49ers had interest in trading for Odell Beckham Jr. before the Giants shipped him to the Browns, but they did not go after this year’s other available star wide receiver. In an interview with KNBR, 49ers GM John Lynch said that he did not engage in talks with the Steelers for Antonio Brown

We took a quick look and then we just said, ‘Hey, we’re not interested in that for our team,’” Lynch said (Twitter link via Matt Barrows of The Athletic). “That’s where we are. I think we feel pretty good about our receiving corps. I know a lot of people don’t share our sentiments.”

Brown, of course, went to the Bay Area’s other NFL team in exchange for third- and fifth-round picks. If Brown reverts to his old form in Oakland, there may be questions about the Niners’ lack of interest in the future Hall of Famer.

Meanwhile, Lynch indicated that the Niners’ possession of the No. 2 overall pick in the draft actually complicated trade talks with the Giants. The Giants were looking to come away with an additional first-round pick for 2019, but the Niners were unwilling to give up their valuable position.

I think, ironically, the fact that we had the No. 2 pick made it more difficult because they wanted that badly,” Lynch said (Twitter link). “They wanted two No. 1s. And we weren’t willing to part with that. It was too valuable of a pick.”

The Niners, who did not land Brown or OBJ, are set to feature a receiving corps headlined by Marquise Goodwin and Jordan Matthews. There will be opportunities to bolster the WR group in the draft, but there are no prospects that warrant consideration at No. 2 overall.

Given Lynch’s reluctance to part with the No. 2 pick, one can’t help but wonder if the Niners should have given more thought to a Brown pursuit.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Browns Rumors: Hunt, Simmons, Draft, OBJ

The Browns are asking the NFL to allow Kareem Hunt to remain with the team during his eight-game suspension, a source tells Mary Kay Cabot of The Plain Dealer. Players are typically banned from the team facility and all activities during personal conduct policy suspensions, but the club is looking for an exemption in Hunt’s case.

Given Hunt’s history, this could be an uphill battle for the Browns. While we wait for developments on that front, here’s more from Cleveland:

  • It sounds like GM John Dorsey will consider Mississippi State defensive tackle Jeffery Simmons in the upcoming draft, despite his red flags. “I think from your standpoint, what you should do is you should talk to the coaches and the support system at Starkville, Mississippi State, and just see what kind of man that guy really is,” Dorsey said (via Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal). The Browns might not be able to land Simmons with their first pick at No. 49 overall, but trading up is always a possibility.
  • Dorsey expects Odell Beckham Jr. to arrive in Cleveland for the start of the voluntary offseason program on Monday, April 1 (via Cabot). “He’s excited,’’ Dorsey said. “There’s a genuine excitement there. There’s familiarity with some teammates. There’s familiarity with his position coach. I’m sure he’s … he’s got a relationship with Baker so I’m sure he’s excited to be part of this new beginning for him.’’

Extra Points: Giants, Beckham, Redskins, Keenum, Broncos, Morse, CBA

Count Giants owner John Mara among those who never thought the team would trade Odell Beckham Jr. Speaking today from the owner’s meetings, Mara said “he never thought they’d trade Odell right up until the final day,” according to Ralph Vacchiano of SNY (Twitter link). Mara also said he finally gave his “reluctant approval” for the deal, Vacchiano wrote in a separate tweet.

In additional comments made to reporters, Mara and co-owner Steve Tisch emphasized over and over how difficult of a decision it was to ship Beckham to the Browns. Mara also said whether or not the trade proves to be a success will be determined by the front office making “the right decisions” with the draft picks the Giants got from Cleveland.

Here’s more from around the league:

  • The Redskins traded for Case Keenum, but so far they’ve insisted that Keenum will have to compete for Washington’s quarterback job with Colt McCoy, and potentially with a rookie. Alex Smith is all but certain to miss the entire 2019 season. McCoy is, like Smith, recovering from a leg injury. McCoy recently underwent a second surgery on his leg, but is expected to be ready for the Redskins’ offseason program, according to Tarik El-Bashir of The Athletic (Twitter link). It remains to be seen if McCoy will actually seriously push Keenum for the job, but he’ll at least be healthy enough to put up a fight.
  • The Broncos let center Matt Paradis walk in free agency, and they apparently attempted to make a big splash to replace him. Denver tried to sign center Mitch Morse before he signed with Buffalo, according to Mike Klis of Denver 9News. The Bills made Morse the highest-paid center in the league, which priced him out of the Broncos’ range, Klis writes. The Broncos now have major questions on the interior of their offensive line, and Klis expects them to make a move to address them soon.
  • There’s been a lot of talk about a potential work stoppage the next time the CBA expires, with players expected to make major demands that the owners might not be willing to meet. In the run up to those negotiations, there are apparently major tensions between the NFLPA and NFL agents, according to Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com. A group of players and agents had a meeting last week, and multiple sources told Florio “it did not go well.” In a separate post, Florio posted the full memo he obtained about what happened in the meeting. Florio writes that the discord between the two camps “will be music to the ears” of the owners, who would like to see their opponents as divided as possible.

Browns GM Discusses OBJ Trade

The Browns have seemingly been connected to a number of big-name wideouts over the past year or so, and the team finally acquired a superstar receiver when they traded for Odell Beckham Jr.. The team had to give up plenty of capital (including a first-rounder and former first-rounder Jabrill Peppers), but they’re naturally excited about the potential of their young and dynamic offense.

General manager John Dorsey recently talked with Andrew Gribble of ClevelandBrowns.com to discuss all things OBJ, including the teams preparation for the trade and how the receiver will mesh with head coach Freddie Kitchens and quarterback Baker Mayfield. The entire article is worth a read, but we’ve compiled the notable soundbites below…

On if the front office prepared for a potential OBJ trade:

“It was a hypothetical that sometimes you can plan for, but you can plan for stuff that 99 percent of the time does not transpire. This just so happened to be that 1 percent that your planning actually paid off.”

On why the Browns ultimately pulled the trigger on a deal with the Giants:

“You can’t have enough competitive football players. We all understand the magnitude of his ability to play the game of football. He is a good football player, and you can’t have enough weapons around you. He is a really good asset to have on our football team.”

On the relationship between OBJ and his college teammate, Jarvis Landry:

“I know that they are best of friends. They are very competitive with each other. I heard Les Miles talk about how those two would drive each other and push each other when they were at LSU to compete. I think it can only help each other because that competition brings out the best in any athlete, regardless of the sport.”

On Kitchens’ ability to manage so many personalities:

“The one thing I love about Freddie, Freddie is very direct. He is very straightforward. He is going to set expectations. He is going to hold players accountable. He is going to be the same guy day in and day out. You know what? Players respect him, and they respect that type of approach.”

On expectations for Mayfield in 2019:

“With Baker, he showed last year that he can step up to certain challenges. The object of this thing is to surround him with as many good football players as you possibly can. It seems like Odell and Baker have a relationship formed. I am not sure where it formed, but they tell me that they have a relationship and that it is a good relationship. I am excited to see what the whole bunch can do.”

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.