Should the Cleveland Browns trade Odell Beckham Jr.?
by Michael Obermuller
Odell Beckham Jr. has become one of the more polarizing players in the NFL, ever since being drafted by the New York Giants in 2014. After receiving a five-year, $95 million contract extension from Big Blue in 2018, OBJ forced his way out of New York with his off-the-field antics. The first franchise to step up in negotiations was the Cleveland Browns, who outbid the competition for the frustrated star wide receiver.
Pretty much since the day he touched down in Cleveland, trade talks have swirled around Odell and the Browns franchise once again. You see, Beckham didn’t choose the Browns, and he has not seemed truly happy in Cleveland since the day he arrived. Now Browns general manager Andrew Berry (who took over after the OBJ trade) has rumored that the franchise is open to dealing the playmaker for the right return.
Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of trading OBJ, from the perspective of the Browns.
Cases FOR Trading OBJ
- An Offer Cleveland Cannot Refuse
- Another franchise could simply offer the Browns a similar haul that they once paid the Giants for OBJ, which would allow them to wash their hands of the situation entirely. Cleveland sent NYG Jabrill Peppers, a first (No. 17 overall), and a third in return for Beckham.
- This seems unlikely based on Beckham’s contract and injury history, especially when you consider that the pandemic has crippled revenue and lowered the cap this season.
- Financial Obligations vs. Contribution
- Considering how little Beckham has actually played (more on that below), he’s costing Cleveland a fortune in both dollars and cap space.
- OBJ has a $15.75 million cap hit in 2021, and a $15 million flat cap hit in 2022 and ’23. They made the postseason without the wide-out in 2020, so the argument could easily be made that this money could help this roster more if it were allocated elsewhere.
- Beckham had over 1,000 yards receiving and four touchdowns for the Browns in 2019, but they missed the playoffs that season. He only totaled 319 yards and four touchdowns in 2020, when the Browns made the playoffs and defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers in round one. OBJ did not factor in the second half of the year, or any of the postseason games.
- Off-the-Field Noise
- OBJ has become a locker room distraction in the past with the Giants. It’s not that he’ll break team rules or do anything illegal, but Beckham tends to run his mouth to the media and aggravate teammates.
- The Giants ended up trading OBJ the offseason after he publicly criticized quarterback Eli Manning in an interview. Baker Mayfield is not exactly an MVP candidate either, so you never know when Beckham might get frustrated and make waves, which could negatively impact team chemistry.
- Injury History
- Speaking of the aforementioned injuries the star has suffered, Beckham has only played 15 or more games in three out of his first seven seasons in the league. He made 12 appearances twice, seven once, and four in 2017 with only two games started.
- In terms of wear and tear, most of OBJ’s injuries have been to his lower half. Beckham had his first issue during preseason of 2014, when he suffered a grade three tear in his hamstring. He then pulled his hammy again in OTA’s the following season, has missed minor amounts of time with hip strains, suffered a grade three high-ankle sprain in preseason of 2017, fractured the same ankle later that year, missed games with a quad hematoma bruise in 2018, groin-related sports hernia in 2019 — and worst of all, an ACL tear in 2020.
- Eventually, a body can only take so much and still perform as it once did. If the Browns get the right offer, it might be hard for the new regime not to sell high on this extensive injury history.
Cases AGAINST Trading OBJ
- Trade Stock At Lowest
- A GM never wants to trade a player at their lowest value, and OBJ could be at his lowest right now (recovering from a torn ACL in the midst of a financial crisis/pandemic).
- They must at least recoup a first round pick for OBJ, and that’s still a good deal less than what they originally paid for him. If the return is too low, the smarter move might be to bet on Beckham’s recovery.
- Browns Should Bet On Talent
- Whether or not they get the right offer, many still believe that OBJ’s talent and attributes are too rare and dynamic to trade away. There aren’t too many receivers in the NFL that have Beckham’s mix of size, athleticism and speed, not to mention his hands and route running ability (two acquired skills).
- Beckham has totaled 1,000-plus receiving yards in every season but two (2017 and 2020, due to injury), and 1,300-plus yards three out of the five 1,000 yard campaigns.
- Odell had a yards after catch (YAC) per reception of 4.4 yards in 2019. For comparison, DeAndre Hopkins had a 4.58 YAC per reception in 2020, and only the top receiving weapons in football like Davante Adams and Travis Kelce topped 5.0 YAC per reception last season.
- OBJ has had a consistent yards per catch that has hovered around his 14.0 career average every season, with a 15.1 yards per reception career-high in 2015.
- Cleveland is Better with Beckham
- One of the main reasons the Browns fell short against the Kansas City Chiefs in the postseason was a lack of receiving weapons (and more specifically, no clear No. 1 wide-out).
- Rashard Higgins filled the role admirably in 2020 after Beckham’s injury, but this offense is so much more potent with OBJ in the lineup. Think about it; Nick Chubb, Kareem Hunt, Austin Hooper, Harrison Bryant/David Njoku, Jarvis Landry, Rashard Higgins AND Odell Beckham Jr. That arsenal would be a challenge for any opposing defense, and OBJ’s unique skillset throws a wrench into a coordinator’s game prep and strategy.
- Wide Receiver is a Need Area for Cleveland
- 2020 proved that the Browns are shallow at wide receiver, and they have yet to add to that WR room this offseason. At this point, there aren’t many WRs left in free agency (and none nearly as influential as OBJ).
- Cleveland could try and replace Beckham through the draft, but it would also be hard to find a talent like him at their current draft position (unless they received a lower first rounder back in return — unlikely).
- This roster is one of the more complete ones in football, but their biggest “need” might actually become wide receiver if they trade Beckham. It wouldn’t be wise to create a hole like that, without the proper solution in place to fix it.
Based on the current landscape of the NFL, this probably isn’t the best time to trade Odell. Unless a surprise bidder emerges, Cleveland would likely get short-changed at his current value. The smarter bet is to ride out OBJ for another year and hope that he has a bounce-back campaign. There should be much more of a market for the wide receiver in 2022, so long as Beckham stays healthy.