Odell Beckham Jr.

North Notes: Browns, Ravens, Decker

Before Vinny Curry reached an agreement to sign with the Eagles, he received a better offer from the Browns, Geoff Mosher of InsidetheBirds.com tweets. Curry wanted to stay in Philadelphia, per Mosher, but one-year Eagles exec Andrew Berry — now the Browns GM — made a push to bring the veteran defensive lineman to Cleveland. This does not mark the first time the Browns have submitted what was believed to be the best multiyear offer for a defensive lineman only to wind up not signing him this offseason. They represented Jadeveon Clowney‘s best offer, but the former No. 1 overall pick did not go for it and remains a free agent. The Browns redid Olivier Vernon‘s deal, seemingly taking them out of the Clowney sweepstakes, but still appear to be in the market for D-line help. Cleveland did add Adrian Clayborn earlier this offseason, and he stands to be the top backup to Vernon and Myles Garrett.

Here is the latest from the North divisions, shifting first to a more famous Browns cog:

  • Odell Beckham Jr. made some comments recently that indicated he would not be especially upset if the 2020 season did not happen. “I just feel like the season shouldn’t happen,” Beckham said during an interview with the Wall Street Journal, “and I’m prepared for it to not happen and I wouldn’t mind not having it.” These comments, however, came before the NFL finalized its safety protocols. Beckham did not opt out and is set for his second season with the Browns. After skipping most of the Browns’ voluntary activities last year, Beckham has been engaged in the process this year, Berry said, via the AP’s Tom Withers.
  • The pre-Lamar Jackson Ravens routinely rostered two quarterbacks, but they again plan to carry three this year, John Harbaugh said. The Ravens have Robert Griffin III signed up for a third season in Baltimore, while Trace McSorley enters his second NFL season. Harbaugh indicated the team kept three passers last year because it did not believe McSorely would pass through waivers to the Ravens’ practice squad.
  • Two-plus months after the last Taylor Decker contract update, the Lions are not believed to have discussed an extension with the fifth-year left tackle. They have prioritized a Kenny Golladay re-up over Decker’s, Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press notes. Decker indicated this week the Lions have not made him an offer yet. A new Decker deal would likely cost the Lions north of $16MM annually. Both players are going into contract years. Decker making it through his fifth season without a new deal would make him a franchise tag candidate, though tags will not be as easy to apply next year if the cap plummets as expected.
  • The Packers announced they will not have fans at their first two home games. However, the team will re-evaluate the situation after those two September dates.

AFC North Notes: OBJ, Green, Andrews, Steelers

It’s been almost three years since Odell Beckham Jr. fractured his left ankle, and while the star wideout has yet to return to the Pro Bowl, he’s managed to put up back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons. However, in an alternative universe, OBJ may have decided to hang up his cleats following that 2017 campaign.

Appearing alongside Cam Newton, Todd Gurley, and Victor Cruz on his YouTube series The Bigger Picture, Beckham admitted that he almost retired following the injury.

“I said this in college, I said, ‘I fear the day that they make this game a business and not what I love,’” Beckham said. “And when I seen that for the first time after breaking my ankle, like I thought about like not playing no more. Like this is not really it for me because they’ve ruined the game of football for me a little bit.”

OBJ didn’t elaborate on what the Giants did to upset him during that 2017 campaign, although it’s worth noting that the receiver had rushed back from a preseason ankle sprain. The veteran’s tenure with New York ended last offseason when he was traded to the Browns, and the 27-year-old proceeded to appear in all 16 games for the first time since 2016.

Let’s check out some more notes from around the AFC North…

  • When we learned yesterday that A.J. Green wasn’t going to sign an extension with the Bengals, it was made clear that he’ll willingly play the 2020 season under the franchise tag. Of course, that could be temporary lip service; since the wideout hasn’t signed the tender, he could skip training camp and preseason and still earn his full salary. However, as Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com notes, until Green officially signs the tender, the Bengals have the ability to rescind the franchise tag. This would save the organization almost $18MM, and while it’d be a somewhat unprecedented move, Florio notes that “in an unprecedented year, it’s impossible to rule anything out.”
  • The Steelers have made some changes to their coaching staff. As Josh Alper of ProFootballTalk.com passes along, Blaine Stewart is now the assistant wide receivers coach and Denzel Martin is now the assistant outside linebackers coach. The duo had previously served as coaching assistants. The organization also shook up their scouting department, promoting Chidi Iwuoma from BLESTO scout to a college scouting position and Dennis MacInnis from scouting intern to BLESTO scout.
  • While Ravens tight end Mark Andrews has Type 1 diabetes, he made it clear that he won’t be opting out of the 2020 season due to health concerns. “We’ve got a big year coming up,” Andrews said (via Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com). “I want to be able to do a lot of things, and … just being able to help this team win is exciting for me.” The former third-rounder earned his first Pro Bowl nod last season after hauling in 64 receptions for 852 yards and 10 touchdowns.

AFC North Notes: Browns, Steelers, Ravens

Odell Beckham Jr. will be good to go when the Browns convene for training camp. Kevin Stefanski confirmed the three-time Pro Bowl wideout has 100% recovered from the core muscle surgery he underwent earlier this offseason, Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com notes. Beckham battled this problem for much of last season, often not being able to practice until Fridays, while also navigating a hip injury. While the star receiver suited up for 16 games — after failing to do so in three of his five Giants seasons — OBJ did not develop much of a rapport with Baker Mayfield. In Year 2 with the Browns, Beckham attended the team’s virtual offseason meetings. He skipped much of Cleveland’s onsite OTAs last year.

Jarvis Landry also underwent winter surgery — a hip procedure — and is behind Beckham in recovery. Stefanski expects his other Pro Bowl wideout to be healthy at some point in August. So it appears Landry will miss some time in camp, and Stefanski said he would be cautious with Beckham as well. Moving away from Cleveland, here is the latest from the AFC North:

  • Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin will begin training camp with right tackle Matt Feiler at left guard (Twitter link via Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette). The Steelers need a new left guard after Ramon Foster‘s retirement. However, a Feiler position switch would create a hole at right tackle — where he started 16 games last season. The Steelers signed Stefen Wisniewski as a possible Foster replacement, and Dulac does not expect Feiler to ultimately make the move to guard. Should Feiler be a genuine option at left guard, third-year tackle Chukwuma Okorafor and fourth-year blocker Zach Banner would compete for the Steelers’ right tackle gig.
  • Both James Conner and JuJu Smith-Schuster are in contract years. While nothing has transpired on the Conner extension front, Dulac expects the Steelers to extend Smith-Schuster and avoid the franchise tag to do so. The Steelers have displayed an excellent ability to identify receiver talents for many years and have often let starters walk in free agency (Plaxico Burress, Emmanuel Sanders, Mike Wallace) or traded them (Santonio Holmes, Martavis Bryant). But the team does not have a veteran contract in its current receiver stable, leaving the door open for JuJu to get paid.
  • The Ravens have several standouts either in contract years (Matt Judon, Ronnie Stanley), extension-eligible now (Marlon Humphrey) or set to become free to negotiate in 2021 (Lamar Jackson, Mark Andrews). John Harbaugh is optimistic the team will be able to keep some key players, even as the threat of a reduced 2021 salary cap looms. “We’ll keep as many guys as we can,” Harbaugh said, via The Athletic’s Jeff Zrebiec (subscription required). “I’m very optimistic about the fact that we have a good cap situation going forward. We have not been in good cap shape for the last six years or so. Really, seven years. Every year, we’ve been behind the eight ball with the cap. That’s just the way it was. This year was a little better, and next year will be a lot better.”

Browns Notes: Kaepernick, OBJ, LB

In an interview with WKNR AM-850, Hue Jackson said that he wanted the Browns to sign Colin Kaepernick in 2017 (via Jeff Schudel of the News Herald). The Browns, of course, did not sign him, and placed rookie Deshone Kizer under center instead.

I wanted him,” Jackson said Friday. “It just didn’t work out. Obviously, those things do have to work from a finance, draft, whatever all that is. And that wasn’t my decision.”

Jackson may have wanted Kaepernick in 2017, but he didn’t share that opinion publicly at the time. Like most coaches, Jackson skirted questions about the QB and said that he wasn’t being discussed as a serious option. Meanwhile, Jackson didn’t have full control over the 53-man roster. Personnel decisions were ultimately made by Sashi Brown, who served as the Browns’ GM up until December of that year.

Last month, Kaepernick found himself back in the NFL news cycle when the league briefly listed him as “retired” on his remodeled player page. The following day, the NFL changed his status to reflect that he is, in fact, an unrestricted free agent. The odds of Kaepernick returning to the NFL seemed slim just a few weeks ago, but it may not be so far fetched today. Kaepernick, 33 in November, has been training with the intent of returning to the field.

My desire to play football is still there,” Kaepernick said in February. “I still train five days a week. I’m ready to go, I’m ready for a phone call, tryout, workout at any point in time. I’m still waiting on the owners and their partners to stop running from this situation. So I hope I get a call this offseason. I’ll be looking forward to it.

Here’s more out of Cleveland:

Browns GM: We’re Keeping OBJ

Maybe the trade rumors Odell Beckham Jr. finally quiet down now. Believe him or not, Browns GM Andrew Berry says the wide receiver will be a “long-term member” of the organization. 

With all due respect to the question, I think this is actually a topic, at least from our perspective, there really hasn’t been a ton of ambiguity,” Berry told NFL Network. “We’ve been clear from the beginning that we view Odell as a fantastic player. We’re a better team with him on the field. We see him as a long-term member of the organization. We really like how he’s acclimated and adjusted with the new staff. So the rumors, that’s not something that we can control, but we’re happy to have him as a part of our organization.”

Beckham clashed with Freddie Kitchens last year, but he was far from the only player to butt heads with the coach. Between OBJ and Kitchens, only one of them made it to Year 2 in Cleveland – the new regime has spent the last few months shooting down trade speculation about the star receiver and Berry’s latest comments are his strongest yet.

Relatively speaking, OBJ fell flat last year. Still, he pulled off 74 catches for 1,035 yards and four touchdowns. Quirks and all, Beckham is one of the most talented offensive weapons in the NFL and the Browns have every reason to make things work.

The latest round of speculation pegged Beckham for the Vikings. The Browns flatly denied any talks with the Vikes and we’re inclined to believe them. After moving on from Stefon Diggs for salary and personality reasons, it would have made little sense to replace him with Beckham.

In short, I will just say it was completely false,” executive Paul DePodesta told reporters earlier this month. “It’s a frustrating a little bit. I think it is pretty clear we are trying to build at this point…The idea that we would take away from that core at this moment just does not make a whole lot of sense and is not really something that we are exploring at all.”

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Browns To Keep Odell Beckham Jr.

The Browns say they aren’t trading Odell Beckham Jr. to the Vikings. Or, for that matter, any other team in the NFL. After talking with multiple Browns sources, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter) reports that OBJ is “firmly” in the team’s plans for 2020. 

[RELATED: Browns Say OBJ/Vikings Rumblings Are “Completely False”]

Rapoport’s sources in Cleveland “literally laughed” when asked about the prospect of dealing the wide receiver. ESPN’s Adam Schefter’s source echoes those sentiments, saying that the Browns have had no discussions this offseason about trading OBJ (Twitter link). Despite the drama and weirdness that comes with Beckham, he stands as one of the most talented receivers in the league. The Browns – who have been denying trade speculation for months – have every reason to try and make things work.

In his first year with the Browns, Beckham had his worst performance in any full season. But, before he relocated to Ohio, Beckham was an absolute monster in New York. OBJ topped 1,300 yards in each of his first three seasons, including a career-high 1,450 yards in 2015. And, after his lost 2017 season, he still managed 77 catches, 1,052 yards, and six touchdowns in just 12 games.

The former first-rounder left the Giants as one of their all-time highest ranked receivers in catches, receiving yards, and touchdown receptions. So far, he’s indicated that he wants to stick around in Cleveland to do the same for the Browns.

Besides, they paid a fortune for Beckham. The Browns shipped 2019 first- and third-round picks to the Giants, plus Jabrill Peppers and Kevin Zeitler, to acquire Olivier Vernon and the star receiver.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Browns: We’re Not Trading OBJ To Vikings

This week, rumors of an Odell Beckham Jr. trade with the Vikings nearly broke the internet. Today, Browns Chief Strategy Officer Paul DePodesta went on the record to pour cold water on those rumblings. 

[RELATED: Browns Eyeing Trade Back For Boise State OL?]

In short, I will just say it was completely false,” DePodesta told reporters (Twitter link via Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com). “It’s a frustrating a little bit. I think it is pretty clear we are trying to build at this point…The idea that we would take away from that core at this moment just does not make a whole lot of sense and is not really something that we are exploring at all.”

Of course, OBJ is no stranger to the pages of Pro Football Rumors. The mercurial wide receiver has been viewed as a potential trade candidate for some time. In December, Jay Glazer of FOX Sports reported that the former first-round pick wanted out of Cleveland. And, according to Glazer, he went so far as to tell opposing players, “come get me.” Soon after, Beckham did his best to quell the speculation:

I’m not going anywhere. I’ll be here,” OBJ said. “We’ll figure this thing out. It’s just too special to leave…We’re going to be here. We’re going to do it again. And we’re going to be what we felt like we should’ve been.”

Still, the rumor mill continued to churn. The 49ers, who were in talks with the Giants before Beckham was traded to the Browns, were thought to be a possible destination for him just last month. But, despite all of the friction, the new regime led by Andrew Berry insisted that OBJ was still in the plans.

Beckham finished 2019 with his worst career full-season stat line: 74 receptions, 1,035 yards, and four touchdowns. Still, he remains one of the league’s most dangerous offensive weapons.

With the exception of the Giants, just about every NFL team would welcome OBJ into the lineup. The Vikings, however, just moved on from wide receiver drama by trading Stefon Diggs to the Bills. After that deal, giving up valuable draft picks for Beckham would make little sense.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

North Notes: Mixon, Browns, OBJ, Vikings

Although Christian McCaffrey landed his extension, the other members of 2017’s loaded running back class remain on rookie deals. The BengalsJoe Mixon resides in this camp. The sides have begun negotiations, according to Paul Dehner Jr. of The Athletic, who adds the Bengals are preparing for a Mixon holdout if no extension is agreed upon (subscription required). The Bengals are not prepared to pay Mixon on the $16MM-per-year level — the new standard for backs after McCaffrey’s deal — according to Dehner. The team would like to extend him, Dehner adds, just not in that price neighborhood. Cincinnati’s starting back is going into his age-24 season. Mixon’s contract does not contain a fifth-year option; he is set to earn $1.2MM next season.

With the exception of Ezekiel Elliott, the latest run of big-ticket running back contracts has mostly burned teams. Todd Gurley and David Johnson are elsewhere after signing lucrative Rams and Cardinals extensions, respectively, and Le’Veon Bell ($13.1MM AAV) did not fare well in his first Jets season. Despite playing behind shaky offensive lines, Mixon is coming off back-to-back 1,100-yard rushing seasons. The Bengals have he, Giovani Bernard and 2019 draft choice Trayveon Williams under contract.

Here is more from the NFL’s North divisions:

  • A rumor circulated Wednesday connecting the Browns to engaging in Odell Beckham Jr. trade discussions with the Vikings. The rumor indicated the proposed compensation discussed was a package featuring second- and fifth-round picks. Quickly debunking this, cleveland.com’s Mary Kay Cabot reports no such talks occurred (Twitter link). It would be odd to see the Vikings shed Stefon Diggs‘ contract only to add Beckham’s $18MM-AAV deal. Beckham was again mentioned in trade rumors at the end of last season, but the latest Browns regime said the plan is to keep the star wideout for the 2020 season. Beckham’s deal could become a trade asset at some point, with the Giants having eaten all the dead money associated with it.
  • One of many defenders with whom the Browns agreed to one-year contracts, Karl Joseph remains in limbo to a degree. The former Raiders safety suffered a broken foot last season and underwent surgery. However, Joseph has not taken a Browns physical yet, Cabot notes. Joseph is the only member of this Browns free agency class not to have taken his physical, Cabot adds. There are no plans for Joseph to take a physical in the near future, but GM Andrew Berry does not expect this to be an issue that nixes the parties’ $2.5MM agreement.
  • It’s been a while since the Packers have authorized a major running back extension, but they are discussing a new deal with Aaron Jones.

49ers Not Interested In OBJ Trade

A year after Odell Beckham Jr. was traded by a team that insisted it was not interested in trading him, the star wide receiver popped up in trade rumors again a few months ago. While Beckham remains on the Browns, standing in Cleveland may not be too far from where it was in New York circa 2019.

The 49ers engaged in discussions with the Giants for Beckham last year, but things worked out pretty well for them despite OBJ being dealt to Cleveland. Although Emmanuel Sanders‘ defection to New Orleans leaves San Francisco again in need at wideout, Jay Glazer of The Athletic notes the 49ers will not pursue Beckham this offseason (subscription required).

While the 49ers indeed “loved” Beckham last year, Glazer adds that the team is now trying to add draft capital rather than trade it for veterans. San Francisco did this upon trading DeForest Buckner to Indianapolis, and the first-rounder acquired (No. 13 overall) could well be used on a wide receiver.

It became clear early last season that Jimmy Garoppolo needed more help, so the 49ers added Sanders. They had wanted to retain him but did not bid higher than the Saints’ two-year, $16MM offer. The 49ers will almost certainly add a receiver with one of their early-round picks to join their Deebo Samuel-led corps. San Francisco has used consecutive second-round picks on wideouts, with Samuel following 2018 acquisition Dante Pettis. The 49ers have not used a first-round pick on a receiver since their disappointing A.J. Jenkins selection in 2012.

Beckham and Baker Mayfield struggled to stay on the same page during Freddie Kitchens‘ one-and-done season. The Giants eating all the dead money in dealing Beckham to the Browns would make the 27-year-old talent an interesting trade chip, and OBJ surfaced in trade rumors late last season. While the three-time Pro Bowler’s long-term status in Cleveland probably isn’t stable, he remains in the Browns’ 2020 plans for the time being.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC Injury Notes: Landry, Phillips, Beckham

Browns wide receiver Jarvis Landry was unable to avoid offseason hip surgery, according to Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com. Landry had been hopeful that rest and rehab would be enough to deal with his injury during the offseason but instead opted to go under the knife. The news did not come as a huge surprise given the fact that Landry had previously mentioned he regretted not getting surgery sooner, but it remains noteworthy nonetheless.

The timetable for his return appears to be six-to-eight months, which would allow him back onto the field at some point during training camp.

Here’s some more injury notes from around the AFC:

  • Bills defensive tackle Harrison Phillips discussed the grueling recovery process from a torn ACL with Bills Insider Chris Brown. Phillips described his experience going through the “very long, slow process” working back to the field. On top of his original rehab, Phillips suffered a major setback in September, which delayed his recovery timetable even further. At this point, Phillips does not expect to be a full go until training camp.
  • Unlike teammate Jarvis Landry, Browns wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. should be back at full strength from surgery in less than a month, per Cabot. Beckham, who underwent core-muscle surgery in late January, is on pace to be recovered in time to participate in offseason minicamp. While he did not attend minicamp last offseason, the combination of a new head coach in Cleveland and his attempts to come back from an injury could make his attendance more likely.