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Kelly: Tagovailoa’s ability went from concern to selling point for OBJ | Opinion

First coach Mike McDaniel gave the three-time Pro Bowl receiver the hard sell on his role in the Miami Dolphins’ 2024 offense, convincing Beckham he’d be more of a co-star than a supporting cast member.

Then Jalen Ramsey reminded Odell Beckham Jr. the last time they joined forces, playing for the same team, the Los Angeles Rams won a Super Bowl.

All that was left for Beckham was to do his own research on the Dolphins, and that process started with film study of quarterback Tua Tagovailoa.

After spending the bulk of his nine-year career with Eli Manning and Baker Mayfield, whom he ultimately feuded with during his final days in Cleveland, the last thing Beckham could handle during attempt to resurrect his once scolding-hot NFL career, was to hitch his wagon to another mediocre quarterback.

And Beckham openly admits he had reservations about Tagovailoa because of a previous bias.

“I was definitely a little hesitant at first. He’s a lefty and I’ve shied away from lefties,” Beckham said when talking about the role Tagovailoa’s skills played in his decision to sign with Miami.

“They say he just throws different, the accuracy and the spin. It’s like he’s really not left-handed,” Beckham said about Tagovailoa, who led the NFL in passer rating in 2022 and threw for the most yards in 2023.

Ironically, Tagovailoa actually does everything but throw a football with his right hand. He was taught to throw a football with his left hand by his father and never veered from that course.

Receivers are generally accustomed to, and prefer right-handed quarterbacks because the ball has a reverse spin coming from lefties.

“Just watching his film, there are a lot of great things that [Tua’s] doing. He did it at Alabama, and did it here with the Dolphins,” said Beckham, who has scored 60 touchdowns in the 110 regular-season NFL games he has played. “I just see opportunity when I watched the film.”

And that’s why Beckham’s a Dolphin.

It wasn’t the money, which has a base salary of $3 million, but can allegedly grow to $8 million if incentives are reached.

Even though he loves South Florida, owns a condo here and routinely visits Miami when he has spare time (who remembers the notorious boat trip the Giants receivers took hours after a game), it wasn’t the weather or the lifestyle that sold him on the Dolphins.

Beckham isn’t searching for a retirement home. At this point in his life the 31-year-old is looking for a chance to resurrect his career, reclaim his reputation as an NFL playmaker, not just a player.

“Coach Mike sold it to me. His energy. We speak the same language. The conversations we had about football, and just the opportunity,” Beckham said. “God put it in front of me, and I just went and rolled with it.”

Beckham openly admits he once carried “a lot of anger, or resentment” about how his NFL career has played out. The quarterbacks. The limited targets, especially last season.

The soured relationships with coaches and teammates. And most importantly, the injuries.

In 2017 Beckham came back from an ankle injury too early and it shattered a few games later. In his mind, that was the beginning of the decline.

“A lot of things happened from there,” Beckham said, addressing what he refers to as the middle chapters.

There was a quadriceps injury in 2018. Then a groin injury in 2019.

Lower back issues plagued him early in 2020, and then there was his first ACL tear in October of that season.

When he returned in 2021 there was a shoulder injury, then hip issues, before he tore an ACL while off to an most valuable player-type performance in the Rams’ Super Bowl win against the Cincinnati Bengals.

Even though Beckham flirted with making a possible return to the NFL for the following year’s postseason, he spent the entire 2022 season out of football, rehabbing his left knee.

He returned in 2023 and had a relatively healthy season with the Baltimore Ravens, catching 35 passes for 565 yards and scoring three touchdowns on his 64 targets in 14 games. But the development of rookie sensation Zay Flowers and the signing of Nelson Agholor encouraged Beckham that it was time for him to move on.

And here he is, trying to close out the final chapters of his career on a high note, serving as a complementary player to an offense that has leaned heavily on Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle.

The hope is that Miami will do for him what it’s done for many mature individuals looking for a better life.

“I’m a competitor,” Beckham said. “Forget the middle part. You read a book. The start is going to capture us. You read the body of the story. And how’s it going to end? That’s where I’m at. Let’s have a great ending to this story.”