The relationship between Odell Beckham Jr. and the New York Giants has taken a serious, though hardly unexpected, turn. That’s because it’s time to get serious about the money. It’s always, of course, about the money. Will the Giants give it to the superstar wide receiver or will he have to find it somewhere else?
At the NFL owner’s meeting on Sunday, Giants co-owner John Mara gave a loud and clear signal that his previously unequivocal support for Beckham is wavering.
Mara said that “nobody is untouchable” after a 3-13 season and that while the Giants wouldn’t go looking to trade Beckham that “you always listen.”
Until now, Mara and the Giants may not have been inclined to truly listen. But, there is yet another new coach — Beckham’s third in five seasons — a new GM and a new resolve to get the wayward Giants back on the right path.
There is also a growing weariness with Beckham’s seemingly never-ending habit of drawing attention to himself for all the wrong reasons.
“I’m tired of answering questions about Odell’s behavior and what the latest incident is,” Mara said. “I think he knows what we expect of him. Now it’s up to him. I still believe he’ll be able to show him what we expect of him.”
Beckham is set to play the 2018 season on his $8.459 million fifth-year option. That’s not chump change, but it’s not the long-term mega-deal he wants. Mara said Sunday it is “a possibility” the Giants will force him to do just that.
That is a far cry from what Mara said during training camp last summer. Here is a summary of those remarks:
“He deserves to get paid. We’re gonna pay him. It’s just a question of when in terms of the contract ... he’s going to get paid a lot of money at the appropriate time. ...
“He’s just gotta keep doing what he’s doing and keep playing. Listen, he’s going to get a long-term contract. We’re not asking him to prove anything at this point. Just keep playing as hard as you can play and continue your growth off the field as a person. I’m confident he’s going to do both. He’s a very smart young man, very talented player.”
You had to know a response was coming from Beckham’s camp, and it arrived Monday morning.
From @gmfb: My understanding is that #Giants WR Odell Beckham Jr will not set foot on a field without a new contract extension agreed to — with the #Giants or any team. ... This comes a day after owner John Mara said no one is “untouchable” in trade talks.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 26, 2018
Both sides have valid arguments.
The Giants have waited with extraordinary patience for Beckham to mature, for the headlines that take the focus off his talent to stop. It’s not happening. If anything, it’s gotten worse this offseason. Tawdry videos and lawsuits, frivolous or not, resulting from parties where Beckham is associating with questionable characters have been the kinds of things we have heard this offseason.
He isn’t out beating up women or getting arrested. He hasn’t put a bullet in his leg, or someone else’s. None of us have ever been in Beckham’s shoes. I can’t tell you how I would handle that kind of celebrity, or how I would live my life if I had the opportunities he is presented with. Beckham just keeps finding himself the subject of unnecessary attention of his own making. He certainly isn’t helping his campaign for a new deal.
“I think too often he allows himself to get put in bad situations and needs to use a little better judgement,” Mara said.
From the Giants’ side, it is easy to see why they would be squeamish about handing Beckham a long-term deal and roughly $100 million. It is easy to see why they might wonder if Beckham has become more interested in his celebrity and all that comes with it than in being a football player first. The fear has to be that one of these days Beckham’s bad judgment lands him in a situation far more serious than an embarrassing video.
From Beckham’s side, it is easy to see why he wants to get paid. He knows how talented he is, and who he is. He knows what he has accomplished individually on the field, and how he has re-written the franchise and NFL receiving record books. After his season-ending injury a year ago, he has experienced how fleeting the opportunity at a record-breaking deal could be. Why chance another major injury before cashing in your big pay day?
Would the Giants really trade him?
If Beckham indeed takes the stance that he won’t set foot on the field until he has a rich, new deal it has to be considered a possibility. It might not be inevitable or imminent, and it might not be what anyone truly wants, but it can’t be impossible.
The Giants have new sheriff’s in town in GM Dave Gettleman and coach Pat Shurmur. They are tasked with turning around a 3-13 team that had a toxic locker room in 2017. How do you get any of that done if your best player won’t show up? How do you fix the locker room if the biggest personality isn’t there? Like it or not, that will cause division. How do you build an offense if the best player is on the other side of the country holding out for a new deal? Mostly, how do you give Shurmur a fair shot to succeed if he’s handcuffed by the Beckham situation?
Let’s not forget that Gettleman showed in Carolina that he isn’t afraid to make the unpopular move to move on from popular players. Of course, Josh Norman and Steve Smith aren’t Beckham. And Carolina isn’t New York.
Gettleman, though, has shown that he understands that an organization is bigger than the players who play for it. Veteran Panthers found that out. Jeremy Shockey found that out. Terrell Owens found that out, over and over.
The Giants are bigger than Odell Beckham. They won four Super Bowls without him. They have won nothing with him. When he’s gone, be that this year or 10 years from now, the franchise will go on just fine.
The best thing Beckham could do, in my view, is come to OTAs. Come to mandatory mini-camp. Participate in training camp. Keep his head down and his name out of the TMZ or other gossip-rag headlines. Play football. Let the headlines be about his play. Show Gettleman, Shurmur and Mara that he wants to be part of the turnaround. That he deserves their trust, and their money.
How will this high-stakes poker game play out? I don’t know. It just seems like the tap-dancing has stopped and the hard ball phase has begun. Both sides are beginning to show their cards. Will either side fold? Will Beckham have a long-term future with the Giants? Who will have regrets?
Stay tuned as we all find out.