Cowboys, Giants backed off Odell Beckham Jr. in free agency because he misread his 'worth'
In early October, when Odell Beckham Jr. was no longer in the mood to be cryptic about his disappointment with the Los Angeles Rams and their “lowest of lows” contract offer for 2022, a source from the team posed a question that resonates louder than ever this month. At the time, Beckham was still months from being viable on the football field due to a torn ACL last season, but the Rams were doing their best to stay in his good graces.
Then Beckham tweeted Oct. 12 that the Rams didn’t offer him “ANYthing” and that while the free-agent wideout knew his “worth,” the deal offered by the Rams “isn’t reflective of that.”
“What is his worth, and who is offering it to him?” a Rams source asked a few days after the Beckham tweet. “That’s everyone’s market, right?”
The source added that they weren’t trying to be dismissive and reiterated that the Rams wanted a reunion with Beckham after he helped win the Super Bowl in February. But they also expressed a caveat that three members of the Rams' braintrust offered when I visited training camp in August: Beckham wouldn’t be ready to play until late in the season. By then, circumstances could've changed for both sides.
In regard to the Rams, that was exactly right. Seemingly everything has gone wrong this season, knocking the team out of postseason contention and making a Beckham pursuit a moot point.
But for Beckham?
The circumstances surrounding his contract expectations are still pretty familiar. He believes he knows his worth. And as of Dec. 13 — two months since his complaints about the Rams — Beckham doesn’t have an NFL team willing to give it to him. Not the Dallas Cowboys. Not the New York Giants. Not the Buffalo Bills. And not any of the other Super Bowl contenders that could've lined up visits with him this week but curiously haven’t tried.
All of which makes a multitude of teams wrong about Beckham's worth, unless maybe he’s sailing with a free-agency map that’s upside down.
To underline that reality, let’s consider a line from from one of the founding fathers of day-trading, Jesse Livermore. As the 1900s stock market savant once framed it, “Markets are never wrong. Opinions often are.”
In this case, Beckham's opinion of his worth is demonstrably wrong. If it weren't, he’d be on an NFL roster right now. Instead, veteran players such as T.Y. Hilton and Cole Beasley have signed with the Cowboys and Bills, respectively. Meanwhile, nobody in the NFL seems entirely sure what Beckham looks like running around on a field after his second ACL surgery because he declined to work out on any of his free-agency visits earlier this month.
While they might not be in a hurry to say so publicly, that was a problem for the teams that were most eager to sign him. Meanwhile, Hilton worked out for Dallas on Monday morning and had a contract by the afternoon. And Beasley agreed to sign a practice squad deal that could very well make him a week-to-week roster decision for the team.
All of this comes just days after Beckham said publicly that he didn’t see the point of playing in the regular season. Which, if we’re being real here, is in the same zip code as a team not seeing the point of signing a player who doesn’t want to play in the regular season.
Different opinions. Different decisions. Beckham remains unsigned. Hilton and Beasley do not. That’s the market speaking.
Of course, it’s not like this is all because of a workout issue. Beckham does not want a short-term deal like the one he signed with the Rams last offseason. He made a bet on himself in 2021 that he wouldn’t get injured, and he lost. It’s understandable that he doesn’t want to make that bet again.
Instead, he went into last offseason wanting security. A one-year deal wasn’t going to entice him, especially not when it would give him only a sink-or-swim window of a few games — which might be just enough for him to get injured again but not quite enough to ramp up his free-agent market.
It was clear from talking to the Rams in the preseason that Beckham was looking for a long-term deal. He wanted something substantial from the team, given that he’d helped them win a Super Bowl. He expected some loyalty in return. When that didn’t happen, he was upset. But his contract attitude hadn’t changed. If he was going to sign somewhere, it was going to be for some long-term security, and it was going to be for the kind of money that made him — at worst — a mid-level No. 1 wideout in terms of salary.
What teams have in mind for Beckham is something different. In fact, the Cowboys just showcased roughly what Beckham would've been looking at in terms of contract structure with the team. Hilton got $600,000 for the remaining four games this season and will get $50,000 bonuses for each of those games that he's on the team’s active roster. Aside from that, he can land as much as $700,000 in postseason incentives.
A team source told Yahoo Sports that the Cowboys were prepared to offer Beckham more money than that if a deal had been discussed. However, it would've been heavily incentivized and short-term in nature. Unfortunately for Dallas, that’s the kind of structure Beckham isn't interested in. It might be the market, but it’s still not the market inside Beckham’s head.
At some point, one side has to give here. And time is getting extremely short. Either Beckham is going to step closer to a team’s short-term outlook, or a franchise is going to lean into the wideout’s long-term hopes.
As of Tuesday night, significant compromise appears dead. And until something changes, that’s the best way to describe the status of Beckham's 2022 season.