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Browns release Odell Beckham Jr.

·NFL columnist
·4 min read
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Odell Beckham Jr.’s playing days in Cleveland are over.

In a move that has been in the works since Tuesday night, a league source told Yahoo Sports the Browns have come to an agreement to release Beckham. The source said the Browns and Beckham’s representatives were still finalizing financial details on Thursday that would ultimately result in the Browns placing Beckham on waivers. 

Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio also reported Thursday night that the Browns plan to release Beckham on Friday after reaching a revised contract. The team made it official Friday morning, writing in a statement that after "careful consideration" the team decided it "is in the best interest of all parties involved that Odell no longer play for the Cleveland Browns." 

A league source with the NFL Players Association told Yahoo Sports that the Browns and Beckham’s representatives have been negotiating contract changes since Tuesday night, after Cleveland failed to receive any trade offers for Beckham. While the New Orleans Saints were reported as having expressed deadline interest in Beckham, a Saints source told Yahoo Sports on Thursday that the franchise ultimately declined to make an offer for the wideout after a brief discussion.

Beckham’s release will end a turbulent final week for the wideout in Cleveland. A source close to Beckham confirmed to Yahoo Sports that the wideout’s representatives asked the team to explore trade options going into the deadline, despite being told by the team that Beckham’s remaining $8 million in salary would be an impediment to finding a deal. While Cleveland was open to trade offers for Beckham, none ultimately surfaced Tuesday, which began with a flurry of headlines over an Instagram video and comments posted by Beckham’s father that disparaged Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield. Later that same day, LeBron James tweeted “#FreeOBJ,” driving Beckham’s trade status into trending topics across social media.

Cleveland Browns wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. (13) kneels in the end zone prior to the start of an NFL football game against the Denver Broncos, Thursday, Oct. 21, 2021, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Kirk Irwin)
Odell Beckham Jr. won't make it to three full sesons with the Browns. (AP Photo/Kirk Irwin)

That response Tuesday — and Beckham’s silence in the wake of it — was apparently enough to convince the Browns' front office and coaching leadership that it was time to move forward without the wide receiver. The source close to Beckham said the team informed his representatives Tuesday night that he would be “excused” from any further practices until the two sides could work out an agreement that would facilitate his release. On Wednesday morning, head coach Kevin Stefanski met with the team and informed the Browns that the team would be moving forward without Beckham. After that meeting, it was simply a matter of coming to an agreement on a contract adjustment.

It ultimately ends a chapter for the Browns that never saw Beckham consistently click in the organization, even going back to the previous regime that acquired him. While former general manager John Dorsey traded for the receiver envisioning a return to the elite form that made Beckham one of the league’s best offensive weapons during his first three seasons, Beckham was often undermined by injuries or a lack of chemistry with Mayfield. That trend continued after the Browns cleaned house and fired Dorsey and head coach Freddie Kitchens, replacing them with new GM Andrew Berry and Stefanski.

One of the first moves of the new regime was to meet with Beckham and express the desire for a clean slate and a renewed push to integrate him into a changing team culture and offensive scheme. It was a marriage that appeared to be showing signs of growth at times, but Beckham suffered a torn ACL in 2020, taking him off the field during a period when the offense went on to thrive in his absence. The hope remained in 2021 that he would again step back into a vital role this season following his knee rehabilitation.

That ultimately never happened, as the team struggled with injuries across every level of the offense — including lingering shoulder issues for Mayfield and Beckham. The ineffectiveness appeared to peak in a loss to Pittsburgh this past Sunday, when Beckham was targeted only twice, catching one ball for six yards. That set the stage for Tuesday’s trade deadline, and the failed hope that a trade partner would emerge and allow both sides to go their separate ways.