The minute Odell Beckham Jr. put pen to paper, he signed up for everything to come. All of it. The good, the bad and the barely watchable.
The minute he agreed to take $95 million of John Mara’s money — $65 million of which was guaranteed — Beckham tied himself to the New York Giants and all of the frustration that comes with being a part of a franchise in free fall.
The Giants have hit rock bottom, and that was evident long before they dropped to 1-7 after losing to the Washington Redskins on Sunday afternoon. The purge in The Meadowlands didn’t just begin last week with ownership jettisoning cornerback Eli Apple and the team’s best run stuffer, Damon “Snacks” Harrison. The dismantling of the Giants of old began this past offseason, when only 17 players from 2017 made it to the start of 2018.
These Giants — with this roster, and this quarterback, behind this offensive line — were never built to win now. They barely were constructed to be serious contenders in an NFC East division headlined by the defending Super Bowl champions. That was clear to football executives around the league, and it should have been clear to Beckham too — before he inked that five-year extension in August.
The question the Giants must answer, sooner rather than later: Do you plan to rebuild the foundation of this football team on Beckham’s shoulders?
If the answer is anything but an emphatic “yes,” then do everyone — yourselves, Beckham and your fan base — a favor and just get rid of him, salary-cap hit be damned.
The Giants have another franchise player to stake their future on: rookie running back Saquon Barkley. But building around him leaves New York with one more question to answer next offseason: Who will their new quarterback (because it can’t be Eli Manning) throw to if Beckham isn’t here?
If the Giants are smart, they’ll work tirelessly over the next 48 hours to offload more starters before Tuesday’s 4 p.m. ET trade deadline. And chances are Beckham will remain — if only for his exorbitant salary.
But unless both sides are invested, this marriage of convenience is doomed. And given Beckham’s explosive comments to ESPN’s Josina Anderson a few weeks ago, it’s fair to question his desire to remain a Giant.
He publicly made his frustrations with Manning, and the coaching staff’s play-calling, known. But the high-priced receiver is getting paid handsomely to live through the weekly agony of this belated rebuild. When he signed that extension, Beckham essentially agreed to be a team player, no matter what transpires this season.
If he wanted to be anywhere but New York, he should have said thanks, but no thanks to that contract offer, and turned his focus to his own future — one that didn’t include Manning and an uncertain Giants outlook.
But if the Giants aren’t 100 percent certain they can win with him, they should never have agreed to give him that much money, either.
“This is where I’m at,” Beckham said with a nod, when asked after the Giants’ 20-13 loss if he wants to remain in New York.
Both parties entered into this union of football matrimony, for better or for worse, in sickness and in desperation. And months later, neither side is happy.
Hours before Beckham would catch eight passes for 136 yards in another losing effort, and Manning would get sacked seven times by Washington’s relentless defensive line, Fox Sports’ Jay Glazer reported the Giants have received “some decent offers” for Beckham, but they’re going to “pump the breaks on it for right now.”
Trading Beckham wouldn’t be a shock, given the fact the Giants are in shambles and focused on rebuilding. Plus, this is an organization that pulled off a similar move in March with Jason Pierre-Paul, dealing the defensive end to Tampa Bay a year after signing him to a four-year, $62 million contract.
But if they get rid of Beckham, the Giants will be on the hook for $16 million in dead money from Beckham’s $20 million signing bonus. To move him, New York would need to create more salary-cap space, and fast.
This isn’t the first time Beckham has been mentioned as possible trade bait.
“It was tossed around in the offseason and I’m still here,” the star receiver said Sunday. “I don’t think I’m going anywhere. This is where I’m at. All I wanna do is be the very best that I can be when I’m on [and] off the field. So it’s really hard to think about that, but it is what it is.”
Playmakers like Beckham are rare. He’s an all-world athlete, a receiver gifted with two of the best hands the game has ever seen. He’s the type of generational talent NFL teams often choose to build around, and one that could be paired with Barkley, another star in the making, for years to come.
Despite all of that talent, and all of those jaw-dropping, one-handed catches, it’s still unclear if Beckham figures into the long-term plans of Mara, general manager Dave Gettleman and head coach Pat Shurmur. And that, in itself, speaks volumes.
If the Giants have any doubt internally about whether Beckham’s upside outweighs the on- and off-field distractions; if they’ve grown tired of responding to the latest Beckham antics or comments in the media; and if, for some reason, they can’t figure out how to come up with a decent offensive game plan with one of the best pass-catchers in the game, then they really have only one choice.
Get as much as you can for him, Giants. And move on.
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