EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - Odell Beckham Jr. will visit the New York Giants on Thursday for the first of his three known scheduled stops within the next week or so with the Buffalo Bills and Dallas Cowboys to come.
His encounter with Big Blue - part meet-and-greet, part free agency courtship - starts on Dec. 1 and could carry over to Dec. 2: exactly four years to the date of his last game as a Giant: Dec. 2, 2018 vs. the Chicago Bears.
"He’ll obviously be here, but in terms of details and things like that, my focus is on practice today," Giants coach Brian Daboll said when asked about Beckham on Wednesday morning.
So is a Beckham-to-Big Blue comeback a legitimate match? There are a ton of layers to this, and it's pretty obvious the Giants are the long shot in this scenario, given the other two contenders are closer to a potential Super Bowl run than they are in the first year of a rebuild under Daboll and general manager Joe Schoen.
But the Giants wouldn't be welcoming Beckham back into their training facility if they weren't serious in the pursuit of the player, and Beckham isn't just coming back to check out his old locker - rookie tight end Daniel Bellinger has it, by the way - and take some photos with the four Vince Lombardi trophies that are still on display in the lobby.
Several individuals familiar with the situation have continued to reiterate to NorthJersey.com, part of the USA TODAY Network, that the Giants have maintained interest in a possible reunion with Beckham since Schoen opened that door a few weeks back. And there's no question Beckham has flirted with the idea on social media in recent weeks.
But the Cowboys, among others, certainly complicate that scenario, especially with owner Jerry Jones going public with his desire to have Beckham wearing a star on his helmet at some point this season.
"Shoot, I would love to have him here," Giants wide receiver Sterling Shepard said Wednesday. "He knows we want him here. I don’t need to really say much. I want him to do what’s best for him.”
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Beckham's reps have done a masterful job creating a market in the eyes of the public for a 30-year-old wide receiver who tore his ACL in February. That's not a knock on Beckham, because he showed how impactful he could be for the Rams down the stretch of last season - perhaps a half from becoming Super Bowl MVP before his knee injury - but there is no escaping the uncertain combination of his health and his age.
The contract terms have to appeal to Beckham, obviously, but also to the Giants, who have been unwilling to compromise their salary cap health in 2023 and beyond. They would need to structure a deal with a low cap hit for the remainder of 2022, then potentially take advantage of the increased space available in future seasons.
The more teams involved the merrier for Beckham, who has been open about a desire to sign a long-term deal wherever he ends up. That may or may not unfold when he ultimately makes a decision.
Shepard, Saquon Barkley and Beckham are very close, and their relationship should not be overlooked. They were together to celebrate Beckham's 30th birthday last month. The catch here, of course, is that Barkley and Shepard are not under contract with the Giants beyond this season. And while it is anticipated that the Giants keep Barkley here, whether that is with a long-term contract or by using the franchise tag, there are no guarantees. It's hard seeing Shepard, despite tearing his ACL, getting a better opportunity than trying to run it back here once more on an incentive-laden deal. He's still a big part of this December run behind the scenes, enhancing his role as emotional leader in the locker room.
Beckham's exit from the Giants did not sit well with the player when former general manager Dave Gettleman traded him to the Browns only months after the organization signed him to a long-term extension. Gettleman painted Beckham as a problem in the locker room, one he believed needed fixing.
Beckham was unhappy with the way he was portrayed by Gettleman, who was replaced by Schoen in January following one of the worst four-year stretches for an executive in franchise history.
His public in his criticism of Eli Manning's decline, among other topics, in a controversial ESPN interview sitting next to Lil Wayne drove a wedge between Beckham and former Giants coach Pat Shurmur early in the 2018 season.
But, as time has passed, Beckham has remained well-liked by many in the Giants' organization, including co-owners John Mara and Steve Tisch. If he wasn't, it's unlikely Schoen would even be considering this.
Why Beckham makes sense
Schoen is a forward-thinker in the GM seat, and part of the job is projecting what is coming not just in the draft, but in free agency. And the Giants will undoubtedly be in the receiver market in 2023.
The current free agent class is not loaded, to put things mildly, with contract extensions taking the better players out of the mix. The Giants might have to wait into next season before Wan'Dale Robinson is fully healthy after he tore his ACL against the Lions two weeks ago.
Do the names Jakobi Meyers, Allen Lazard and JuJu Smith-Schuster excite you?
So if the Giants can take a chance on Beckham at their price, it might be worth a gamble on his talent.
As for the present and what Beckham will provide for the remainder of this season, that's where the Giants lag behind as contenders behind the Bills, who he will visit Friday, and the Cowboys, who will welcome him Monday.
There's no telling how quickly Beckham can get up to speed and be ready to play this season.
Schoen and the Giants have not gone out of their way to add to the pomp and circumstance of a Beckham visit, unlike what has transpired in Dallas and in Buffalo, where good friend Von Miller has predicted this will come down to the Cowboys and the Bills, and that it's already decided.
For the Giants, the perceived quest of bringing their most emotional player of the past decade home isn't what matters most to Schoen and Daboll, who are doing their best to keep the emotions out of this. They are not trying to win a popularity contest or right a wrong in the eyes of a segment of the fan base that never wanted to see Beckham go in the first place, Mara's grandchildren included, as the Giants' co-owner shared at the time of his departure.
The Giants can certainly use a game-changer at wide receiver, and Beckham has been that, when healthy.
This will likely come down to more than that, though, and that's why the Cowboys loom as the suitor most willing to treat Beckham as a star and conquering hero when he shows up at The Star on Monday.
This article originally appeared on NorthJersey.com: Odell Beckham Jr. visits Giants as free agent seeks new contract