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Questions surround Odell Beckham as 2018 season approaches

Will he get paid? Will he be the same player? Will he be happy sharing the spotlight?

NFL: New York Giants at Tampa Bay Buccaneers Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

With a broken Odell Beckham Jr., the New York Giants never had a chance to put together a respectable offense last season. What will the Giants get from Beckham as he comes back from the first significant injury of his so-far tremendous career?

It’s time to discuss the Giants’ polarizing star wide receiver as we roll through our player-by-player profiles of the 90-man roster the Giants will bring to training camp this summer.

2017 season in review

From the moment Beckham took a helmet to the lower leg from Briean Boddy-Calhoun of the Cleveland Browns in the Giants’ second preseason game, both his and the Giants’ seasons were disasters.

Beckham missed the regular-season opener, played in four games, and was really just getting healthy when he fractured his ankle late in a Week 5 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers that dropped the Giants to 0-5. He finished his abbreviated season with just 25 receptions.

The Giants finished the season with a collection of guys no one had ever heard of trying to catch passes from Eli Manning.

2018 outlook

What should the Giants expect to get from Beckham this season? There are several layers to that question.

First is what Beckham should expect from the Giants. That, of course, means we are starting with the contract discussion.

Beckham is, of course, hoping for a rich, long-term deal from the Giants. By showing up for voluntary workouts Beckham is playing his cards right with new coach Pat Shurmur and new GM Dave Gettleman. It’s a show of good faith, and a boost to the new regime as it tries to rebuild a winning culture within the locker room.

Co-owner John Mara said recently that “the contract will get done when it’s supposed to get done.”

When is that? Maybe it is this offseason. If the Giants are ready and willing as an organization to commit more money to Beckham than an NFL team has ever paid to a wide receiver, fine. Maybe they will just go ahead and do it. Beckham is an incredibly talented player who has done historic things. Every team should want players with that kind of ability, and making sure he remains a Giant for several years to come is understandable.

There are, though, plenty of reasons to wait. One is, of course, the money itself.

The Giants’ salary cap situation is fluid. Over The Cap shows them with roughly $8.1 million left to spend under the cap, with only half their rookie class signed. They also need money for any other offseason moves they wish to make, and to add players to replaces ones who are injured during the season.

The Giants do have the monetary leverage with Beckham should they choose to use it. He is set to play this season on his $8.459 million fifth-year option. The Giants could franchise tag him next year. The wide receiver tag for 2018 is worth $15.982 million, and would likely be more next season. So, the Giants could theoretically do nothing for two years about a long-term deal and still keep control of Beckham.

Why would they do that? Well, because as immensely talented as Beckham is giving the kind of mega-money to any player that Beckham wants carries huge risk. And no matter what statistics Beckham has compiled so far in his career there are questions that remain.

What are those questions? That brings us back to what to expect from Beckham in 2018.

Is Beckham still going to be the same explosive player? The thing that has always made Beckham special isn’t his ability to make one-handed catches. It’s been his ability to take the short pass, particularly the slant, and turn the tiniest mistake by the defense into a long touchdown. The precision of his movements, the perfection of his routes, and the amazing quickness to burst through a helpless defense.

The optimistic view is that he will pick right up where he left off, being perhaps the wide receiver who scares defenses more than any other.

Beckham’s injury was a fractured ankle. It wasn’t a blown out knee or an Achilles. He should be fine. He looks fine in various videos we’ve seen — either of him working out or dancing. Until he shows that explosiveness on the field again, though, how can we be sure it is still there?

Also, after two injuries last season going across the middle might there be the tiniest hesitation on his part about heading into traffic? Probably not, but let’s see it.

Can Beckham tone it down? You know where this is going. The pizza and white powder video. The peeing celebration. The boat trip. Punching holes in locker room walls. Proposing to kicking nets. The Josh Norman incident. Beckham has always had a habit of drawing attention for things other than his talent, things that were unflattering, things that did not help the Giants win and sometimes actually hurt them.

Many of you believe none of that stuff matters, that only what he can do on the field is important. It does, however, matter. A lot. Especially when you are considering shelling out the kind of cash it will take to get Beckham’s name on a long-term contract. You want, no need, to know you aren’t going to be constantly answering questions about the latest way in which that player created a distraction.

Sign him now and the Giants are either a) trusting that Beckham will finally show the maturity they have been hoping he would find or b) accepting that the histrionics are just part of what you get with Beckham and counting on his talent to win out.

Can Beckham share the spotlight? For four years, the Giants have been pretty much all Beckham all the time. His play on the field and his talent for making headlines off of it made sure of that. Heading into 2018, things are different. No. 2 overall pick Saquon Barkley has yet to play a down, but he is already a mega-star. Some of the media attention that used to go to Beckham will now go to Barkley.

In addition to sharing the media spotlight, Beckham has a new reality within the offense. He will have to share some touches with Barkley. In Beckham’s absence last season. Evan Engram and Sterling Shepard proved to be pretty good players, too.

It should be a good thing for the Giants, and for Beckham, that not everything in the Giants’ universe — or their offense — needs to revolve around him. It could, at times, make life easier for Beckham on and off the field. Let’s hope he sees it that way.

All in all, just about the only thing we know for sure is that the 2018 season with Beckham should be a whole lot more interesting for the Giants than 2017 was mostly without him.