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Jesse Pantuosco

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The Beckham Saga

Tuesday, March 27, 2018


The Giants have an Odell Beckham problem.

 

We knew this day was coming. Beckham, a megastar playing in the country’s largest media market, was bound to outgrow his rookie deal. Knowing the wide receiver’s diva tendencies, it was also correct to assume that Beckham would threaten a holdout to increase his leverage.

 

Of course, the Giants would probably be a little more apt to play ball with Beckham if he wasn’t such a head case. Drama may as well be Odell’s middle name. It’s been one incident after another since Beckham arrived in the league as a first-round pick in 2014. There was the Josh Norman scrum, the time he waged war with a kicking net, the Boatgate scandal, this explicit touchdown celebration, his run-in with Lena Dunham and most recently, a video that appears to show Beckham smoking marijuana in bed with a model who may or may not be snorting cocaine.

 

These mishaps demonstrate a general lack of maturity and certainly Beckham has been a distraction at times, but would the Giants really be better off without him? It’s true that they were 0-5 before he got hurt last year. But come on—who else on the planet can do this? Or this? Beckham is an athletic freak and a legitimate difference-maker when healthy. Whether it’s from the Giants or another team, Beckham’s big pay-day is coming.

 

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But how big a payday are we talking? I think we can safely surmise that Beckham will be asking for at least as much as Mike Evans, who set the receiver market with his five-year, $82.5 million extension earlier this month. Though Evans was drafted ahead of Beckham, OBJ has outgained him in three of four seasons with the lone exception coming in 2017 when Beckham spent much of the year sidelined by a broken ankle. If Evans can net $80 million-plus, a nine-figure deal would seem to be a real possibility for OBJ.

 

Giants owner John Mara made waves at the onset of the NFL’s annual League Meetings in Orlando when he said he was “tired” of answering for Beckham’s behavior. While Mara confirmed the Giants aren’t actively looking to trade Beckham, he didn’t completely rule it out. “When you're coming off a season where you're 3-13 and played as poorly as we played, I wouldn't say that anybody is untouchable,” he said. Not long after Mara’s remarks, Pat Leonard of the New York Daily News reported that the Rams have checked in on Beckham’s availability, though no deal is imminent. It would surely take a king’s ransom to pry him away from New York—per Leonard, the Giants’ asking price is a first-rounder and then some. But the fact that New York would even consider moving a player as talented and immensely popular as Beckham is worthy of headline news.

 

Obviously Beckham wants to get paid but I imagine that winning is also high on his priority list. Assuming that’s the case, Los Angeles would be an ideal landing spot for Beckham. The Rams enjoyed a resurgence under first-year head coach Sean McVay last season, claiming their first division title in 14 years.

 

The year ended in disappointing fashion with a first-round loss to Atlanta but there’s no question the Rams are a team on the rise. Just look at the improvements they’ve made this offseason. The Rams bolstered their secondary in a big way by acquiring Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib and made another splash Monday by signing Ndamukong Suh to play opposite Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald. L.A.’s defense is a work of art, though the offense lacks a true go-to receiving weapon, particularly after losing Sammy Watkins (team-leading eight touchdowns last season) in free agency. That makes Beckham a perfect fit. Plus, he’s tailor-made for the L.A. spotlight. Couldn’t you picture Beckham sitting courtside at Lakers games next to other A-listers like Leonardo DiCaprio and Rihanna?

 

Imagining Beckham on various other teams is a fun exercise, but in reality, he and the Giants both need each other. With Eli Manning nearing the end of his illustrious career, the Giants have to build around someone and why not make it a once-in-a-generation wide receiver like OBJ? New York can threaten to trade Beckham all it wants but it would be almost impossible to get equal value for a player of his elite caliber. Unless the Giants plan on letting Beckham walk in free agency next year, which would be absurdly foolish, trading him would just be bad business.

 

The tension that’s being played up—Beckham claiming he won’t set foot on the field until he has a new contract and Mara’s exasperation at OBJ’s antics—is likely just posturing. Disgruntled stars threaten holdouts on a yearly basis in the NFL and usually to little avail. Le’Veon Bell sat out training camp after the Steelers franchise-tagged him in 2017. After a months-long staring contest, Bell finally caved about a week before the regular season. Threatening not to play was his only leverage, but in the end, Pittsburgh actually welcomed it because Bell’s absence meant he couldn’t get hurt in training camp. Steelers 1, Bell 0.

 

Beckham faces a similar conundrum with the Giants. He can choose to sit out training camp or even extend his holdout into the regular season as Duane Brown did with Houston last year (he reported to the team prior to Week 8 to prevent his contract from tolling). But Beckham is still under contract for another year and the Giants can and will use his chronic immaturity as an excuse to low-ball him in negotiations. Beckham’s health—his ankle rehab is ongoing—could also be used against him. If the two sides can’t eventually find a middle ground, the Giants could then extend their window for contract talks by assigning Beckham the franchise tag in 2019, just as the Steelers did with Bell. In other words, get comfortable, because the Beckham saga in New York is far from over.

 

Beckham will have to be dealt with at some point, but he’s not the Giants’ biggest priority right now. With free agency in the rearview mirror, New York’s attention has shifted to next month’s draft. The Giants have a rare opportunity with the No. 2 pick and can’t squander it.

 

The way I see it, the Giants have four main avenues to choose from. One option would be to draft NC State defensive end Bradley Chubb. We all know GM Dave Gettleman has a propensity for “hog mollies” and the 6’4,” 269-pound Chubb certainly fits that label. He’d also fill a need for the Giants, who recently traded Jason Pierre-Paul to Tampa Bay. A unanimous first-team All-American and the Wolf Pack’s all-time sack leader, Chubb has drawn widespread praise from scouts with many considering him a better prospect than last year’s No. 1 pick, Myles Garrett.

 

With Cleveland fully expected to draft a quarterback at No. 1 (USC’s Sam Darnold appears to be the early favorite), top running back Saquon Barkley should be available at No. 2 if the Giants are interested. The Penn State product tested through the roof at the Combine and should be a featured back from Day 1. Running back talent has been hard to come by in New York recently. The G-Men haven’t had a 1,000-yard rusher since 2012 and scored the third-fewest rushing touchdowns in the league last season behind only Miami and Seattle. This draft doesn’t have many sure things, but Barkley is one of them.

 

Anyone with eyes can see that Eli Manning’s career is on its last leg. The Giants have committed to Manning as their starter for 2018, but after contributing a paltry 19 touchdowns last year to go with an equally underwhelming 80.4 quarterback rating, that might be all he has left. It seems like a perfect storm with New York holding a top-two pick and four quarterbacks likely to be drafted in the first round. If the Giants are planning to draft Eli’s successor this year, it will have to come with the No. 2 pick.         

 

Trading down has never been Gettleman’s MO, but the Giants would be wise to at least consider it. In a draft with so much quarterback talent, the No. 2 pick holds immense value. A week ago, we saw Indy jettison the No. 3 pick to the Jets in exchange for three second-rounders and moving down three spots in the first round. That’s a massive return and the Giants can expect a similar prize if they offer up the No. 2 pick to a quarterback-needy team like the Broncos or Bills. Denver would be a particularly appealing trade partner because they own the No. 5 pick. Think about it. If New York trades down to No. 5, they’d still have a reasonable chance of landing one of Barkley or Chubb while adding to their draft haul with a slew of picks. It’s a win-win.

 

Between Beckham’s contract and wondering what Gettleman has up his sleeve at No. 2, Giants fans have a lot to ponder these days. And the chaos is only beginning.

 

 



Jesse Pantuosco is a football and baseball writer for Rotoworld. He has won three Fantasy Sports Writers Association Awards. Follow him on Twitter @JessePantuosco.
Email :Jesse Pantuosco



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