One of the big reasons the New York Giants felt comfortable entering into negotiations that ended up making Odell Beckham Jr. the highest-paid wide receiver in NFL history is that they were impressed by how Beckham handled the last few months. It made them believe that at age 25 and coming off the first serious injury of his life, that Beckham had finally found the maturity the Giants have been looking for him to display.
“I think Odell personally is moving in the right direction,” co-owner John Mara said at the beginning training camp when he acknowledged that contract negotiations would be coming. “It certainly had an effect on our desire to start negotiating. So, he’s had the right attitude all along and we expect him to have a great season.”
Now that Beckham has that mega-deal, one that puts him 10th in the NFL in terms of guaranteed money at $65 million, second among non-quarterback to Von Miller ($70 million) and just behind Eli Manning ($67 million) Beckham has responsibilities beyond being a great player.
Beckham is the face of the Giants franchise. That used to be Manning, but in reality it’s been Beckham for a while. One day, that mantel will pass to Saquon Barkley. The historic commitment the Giants just made to one of the two most talented players to ever wear a Giants uniform — the other, of course, being Lawrence Taylor — places that responsibility officially on Beckham.
And it is a responsibility.
Mara said Tuesday that it was “important” for the Giants to see how well Beckham handled the last few months.
“I think he’s matured quite a bit. I think that stuff [off the field distractions] hopefully is in the past,” Mara said. “I think he’s ready to go on and be the type of player and citizen that we expect him to be, and I think he will be.”
The numbers show just how historically good Beckham has been, especially of course in his first three seasons. In those first three seasons, Beckham netted more than 1,300 receiving yards, 10+ touchdowns and 90+ receptions each year.
His records include:
- Most receptions through the first 15 games of an NFL career (110)
- Fastest player to reach 100 career receptions (14 games)
- Youngest player in NFL history (22 years, 53 days) with multiple games having 10+ catches in a single season (4)
- First player since 1967 with 30 receiving touchdowns in his first 35 games
- Only receiver with 3,000 receiving yards or more in his first 30 games (3,035)
- Only player in NFL history to reach 200 catches in 30 or less games
- Second-most touchdowns by a wide receiver in his first two NFL seasons (since 1992)
- Second-most 60+ yard touchdowns (9) by a wide receiver in a three-year span
Beckham also holds Giants franchise records for most receptions (91) by a rookie, most rookie receiving yards (1,305) and touchdown catches (12) by a rookie and is already 10th on franchise’s all-time receptions list.
He is a great player.
He’s lightning, a guy turns the ordinary into the extraordinary in the blink of an eye.
What Beckham needs to do now is keep the focus on those extraordinary talents. He needs to show that the last few months were a real sign of a maturing person and not just an orchestrated effort to be on his best behavior so that he would get paid.
There can’t be any more boat trips. No more peeing in the end zone celebrations that embarrass the head coach, especially one like Pat Shurmur who has gone way above and beyond in an effort to forge a bond with Beckham. There can’t be any more on-field meltdowns that lead to suspensions.
There has to be a Beckham who focuses solely on displaying those extraordinary gifts he has on the field. A Beckham who leads his teammates, teammates who love him and want him to lead them. A Beckham who represents the Giants, an iconic NFL franchise, the way such a franchise deserves to be represented.
A Beckham who’s purpose is to help the Giants win football games, to win titls, and who doesn’t find ways to draw attention to himself for things that have nothing to do with how wonderfully gifted he is.
Beckham know what he wants his legacy to be.
“This [contract] is kind of just something that you get out of the way,” Beckham said of the five-year contract extension he signed yesterday. “Honestly, it sounds crazy enough, but I don’t think I’ve done anything really since I’ve been here. I have goals for myself. I don’t think I have truly been able to achieve them, even with the success that I’ve had. It’s not really where I want to be. Like I said, before I was even in the NFL I wanted to be legendary. Yeah the money is great, you can take care of your family, you can take care of kids one day that you’ll possibly have. But my goal was always to be in the Hall of Fame, to win trophies, to be able to leave a legacy that will be remembered way past any money that you make.”
Some things will have to be different if he is to be remembered the way he wants to be.
Beckham was asked directly if he felt he had matured. His answer?
“Do you see this polo? I’m growing up,” he said. “Honestly, it just was something that, I won’t say proud of anything that’s ever happened, but I’m able to take everything that’s happened for me and make myself into a man and learn from those mistakes and be able to look myself in the mirror and have to deal with those things. It wasn’t the best thing to happen to me to date, but what I got to learn and take and grow from, was everything that I needed in my life and now I’m able to take that and keep going forward and just be the best me that I can be.”
Does he feel added responsibility because of the money?
“I don’t know if it puts any extra that I haven’t already put on myself. Coming in early in training camp, being able to be here and knowing where I’m at in life, and knowing that I do need to be a leader, and there are guys that are watching me and I need to be there on days that I need to be bringing energy somewhere else,” Beckham said. “I don’t know if it’s any extra responsibility that I didn’t already put on myself going into this year, year five, being a vet. I couldn’t say it was any extra, but I know that my goals are if not the same, higher. I just want to be able to be my very, very best.”
Beckham’s “very, very best,” on and off the field is what the Giants are paying for. Right now, there is lots of optimism that they will get it.