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Report: Saints are ‘one to keep an eye on’ if Odell Beckham Jr. clears waivers

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It’s not a situation that the New Orleans Saints or Odell Beckham Jr. have much control over right now, but NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport suggested Sunday that both sides share interest in teaming up once Beckham becomes a free agent. Well, if he becomes a free agent.

The Cleveland Browns adjusted Beckham’s contract before releasing him this weekend, which means he will be formally waived on Monday — giving teams 24 hours to decide whether to submit a waiver claim by Tuesday’s 4 p.m. ET deadline. And those adjustments to his contract make it “very unlikely” any team does choose to claim him and take on $7.25 million in salary for the rest of the season, knowing he’ll be a free agent in the spring and not factor into the compensatory draft pick formula. This is a different resolution than what we expected based off earlier reporting, but it helps raise Beckham’s chances of eventually landing in New Orleans.

That too-high salary cap hit would be very difficult for the Saints to manage, but they could work something out with Beckham if he goes unclaimed and is able to negotiate as a free agent. And that appears to be Rapoport’s expectation given what he’s hearing from around the league.

“Expect him to be a free agent. He’s going to have significant interest. One team, just one to keep an eye on, the New Orleans Saints they had interest in potentially trading for him, it didn’t happen. Obviously he went to LSU as well, I would expect him to have interest there. Just one to keep an eye on,” Rapoport said.

Beckham’s Louisiana roots extend beyond LSU. He was born in Baton Rouge and starred at Isidore Newman High School in New Orleans (the same powerhouse that sent Peyton and Eli Manning into the high-stakes SEC, and later the NFL). It makes plenty of sense that he’d welcome a return home.

But can the Saints afford him? Claiming him off of waivers outright isn’t an option, which is the case for most teams around the league (and Beckham’s agent is working to discourage even more potential suitors to try and control his client’s path forward). If Beckham goes unclaimed, the Browns will be on the hook for $4.25 million of his remaining salary in addition to whatever his new team signs him for.

And while the Saints are awful tight against the salary cap right now, and they have a couple more pennies to pinch in contract restructures with Taysom Hill, Alvin Kamara, and Ryan Ramczyk that could yield as much as $2.6 million. Combine that with the Saints’ estimated $1,098,472 in salary cap space and the deduction of another contract from their books to add Beckham and you’ve got just enough cap space to squeeze Beckham in with a $3 million cap hit, making up what he’s lost by going unclaimed on waivers.

It’s tricky. There’s a lot of moving parts and a lot outside of the Saints’ (and Beckham’s) control, but there’s an avenue forward to get both parties together. But it just looks like such an easy match with such a glaring weakness in the Saints receiving corps and Beckham’s own motivations to get here. Let’s wait and see what happens next.

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