Odell Beckham Jr.

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.

Giants GM: “We Were Not Actively Shopping” OBJ

The Giants may have talked to several teams about Odell Beckham Jr. before pulling off a trade with the Browns, but general manager Dave Gettleman said he was “not actively shopping” the star wideout. Speaking to Paul Schwartz of the New York Post, the executive discussed how the trade ultimately developed, noting that the receiver’s distractions (along with a hefty offer from Cleveland) made a trade more palatable.

“Obviously there’s a lot of stuff that factors in, but at the end of the day, in order for us to move Odell, the other team was going to have to knock it out of the park,’’ Gettleman said. “We were not actively shopping him.’’

The Browns apparently made an offer that grabbed the attention of the Giants, with New York receiving Cleveland’s first-round pick (No. 17 overall), third-round pick (95th overall), and young safety Jabrill Peppers. While the Giants never intended to trade Beckham when they signed him to a lucrative five-year, $95MM contract last August, the Browns’ offer was ultimately too good to refuse.

“Some have questioned why we signed Odell [last August] and then traded him,’’ Gettleman said. “We didn’t sign him to trade him but obviously things changed. Frankly, what changed is another team made an offer we couldn’t refuse. As it turned out, the fact he was signed for five more years made him very attractive and allowed us to get legitimate value.’’

Gettleman did acknowledge that he made one phone call regarding Beckham. Following the Bills’ failed pursuit of former Steelers wideout Antonio Brown, the Giants contacted Buffalo about a trade. The general managed said he also had “numerous conversations’’ with 49ers general manager John Lynch. Based on Gettleman’s assertions, we can only assume it was Lynch who contacted the Giants’ front office.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC North Notes: Dennard, Browns, Steelers

Still unsigned, Darqueze Dennard remains an option for the Bengals. But the franchise looks to have given the cornerback a price point. The Bengals have not closed the door on a reunion with the sixth-year cornerback, according to Paul Dehner Jr. of the Cincinnati Enquirer, but they have since signed B.W. Webb and retained some of their own free agents. The most recent negotiations between Dennard and the Bengals revealed a disconnect, with the team viewing him as strictly a slot cornerback — and one they may not consider paying at the top-market slot price Justin Coleman just reset with the Lions. Dennard’s camp came in with an offer north of what Coleman just signed, proposing a deal north of $10MM per year with the Bengals, Dehner reports, adding the corner’s representation never came back to the table with the Bengals. The team was willing to keep Dennard at around $8.5MM AAV, but that was before reaching a deal with Webb. The new Bengal corner played for first-year DC Lou Anarumo with the Giants.

Dennard was scheduled to visit the Chiefs this weekend. Shifting first to a higher-profile AFC North situation, here is the latest out of this division:

  • John Dorsey called Dave Gettleman on Monday to ask if Odell Beckham Jr. was indeed available. The Giants’ GM had twice said in 2019 he did not extend the wideout to trade him, but Gettleman told Dorsey he was, in fact, willing to move Beckham, Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com notes. Dorsey had several Beckham trades planned, but Cabot adds the talks never included Emmanuel Ogbah or Duke Johnson. Both of those pre-Dorsey Browns investments are now on the trade block.
  • As for the player the Giants did obtain for Beckham, Jabrill Peppers profiled as one the Browns did not want to let go. Despite being a Sashi Brown-era draft choice, Dorsey wanted to keep the improving safety, per Cabot. But Cleveland’s second-year GM was not going to let Peppers stand in the way of acquiring Beckham. Gettleman was “adamant” about Peppers’ inclusion in this trade because of the Giants’ recent decision to let Landon Collins walk in free agency, Cabot adds. The Giants are planning a versatile role for the third-year safety. Peppers can be under Giants control through 2021 via the fifth-year option.
  • The Steelers‘ acquisition of Mark Barron will likely not preclude them from using another early-round pick on a linebacker, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Gerry Dulac (on Twitter). Pittsburgh did not elect to devote significant resources to replacing Ryan Shazier last year but has used four first-round picks on linebackers since 2013 — Jarvis Jones, Shazier, Bud Dupree and T.J. Watt. Shazier’s unfortunate circumstances may again prompt the Steelers to use a first-round choice on an off-ball ‘backer.
  • Eli Rogers‘ latest Steelers contract is for two years, not one, the team announced. The auxiliary receiver may have a bigger role in Pittsburgh’s 2019 offense, considering Antonio Brown is out of the picture and Rogers is entering an offseason healthy. He tore an ACL in the Steelers’ 2017 divisional-round game and only played in three games last season.

Giants Wanted 49ers’ No. 2 Overall Pick For Odell Beckham Jr.

More consistently interested in acquiring Odell Beckham Jr. than the Browns, the 49ers again pursued the superstar wide receiver this offseason. But the Giants’ asking price was high.

The Giants wanted the 49ers’ No. 2 overall pick for Beckham, Jay Glazer of The Athletic reports (subscription required). The 49ers were not willing to deal that high-value selection away.

San Francisco had targeted Beckham during the 2018 offseason and then once the season started, per Glazer, but the Giants stood pat. They ended up acquiring the Browns’ Nos. 17 and 95 picks, along with Jabrill Peppers. Other teams with whom Glazer spoke categorized the Giants’ initial asking price as too high.

The 49ers’ lone receiver move this offseason has been Jordan Matthews, whom the Eagles picked up as a street free agent in September. Kyle Shanahan‘s team may be targeting a wideout with one of its non-first-round picks, or another via trade, but for now, its top targets remain Marquise Goodwin and Dante Pettis.

As for the Giants’ reasoning to deal one of the most talented players in franchise history, Glazer attributes the move to the team souring on its three-time Pro Bowl talent — at least, from an off-field perspective — and wanting to gear their offense more around Saquon Barkley. Pat Shurmur intervened last year to scuttle trade talks, and Beckham was on board with the new coach’s regime, Glazer adds. As the team started slowly, Beckham’s comments about Eli Manning had Shurmur “furious”, perhaps helping the Giants’ relationship with Beckham become, as Glazer describes, “fragmented” to the point the team was ready to move on.

With Beckham gone, the Giants now have Golden Tate and Sterling Shepard atop their wideout depth chart. The team will eat $16MM in dead money because of the Beckham deal. New York holds just more than $16MM in cap space currently.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.