Odell Beckham Jr. might or might not be on the trading block, and if sources inside the Giants building are reading the mood correctly, “might not” is the likelier conclusion to the conversation that dominated this week’s NFL owners meetings.
But if there is a sliver of daylight in this doorway, here’s a thought for the Patriots and Bill Belichick: Go ahead and push it open. Find out what it would take to land Beckham, and if the price is right, make an offer. Then line up the 25-year-old wide receiver alongside Tom Brady and wait for the magic to happen.
Because make no mistake: Beckham is magic. On the field, he is a rare talent, a generational player who causes more than his share of off-field headaches but whose transcendent ability is undeniable.
This is why he isn’t likely to go anywhere, at least not for less than a first-round draft pick (or two) or at least a similar talent in return.
But even if the Giants are not out soliciting trade proposals, they aren’t going to ignore their phones either. That was the ultimate message from co-owner John Mara, who managed to ignite the firestorm at the start of the meetings when he declined to describe Beckham as “untouchable,” and then attempted to douse things a few days later when he insisted, “He’s not on the block.”
But Mara also conceded this: “Is that going to stop clubs from possibly calling us? No.”
Pick up the phone, Patriots.
Mara may or may not have done this all intentionally, driving home the franchise’s growing frustration with Beckham just as the receiver is entering his fifth year in the league and eager for a lucrative contract extension.
The Giants are caught in a strange rebuild-but-win-now conundrum, overhauling their roster by shedding the likes of Jason Pierre-Paul and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, while adding former Patriot Nate Solder as the highest-paid left tackle in football and hanging with 37-year-old Eli Manning for at least another season.
That they would be willing to make Beckham and his negotiating team a little uncomfortable could be nothing more than another sign by new general manager Dave Gettleman that times are changing in East Rutherford.
But again, if there’s a chance that Beckham is there for the taking, the Patriots should find a seat at the table. Yes, other teams make more sense — ones that have more cap room (49ers, Jets, Rams) or more/higher draft picks (Browns, Bills, Colts). But the Patriots do have a first-rounder to deal (31st overall) and a top-flight receiver they could offer (Brandin Cooks) to help the Giants maintain their current strategy.
And the Patriots, still a win-now team, make sense because of a 40-year-old quarterback who’d love nothing more than a shot at avenging this year’s loss in the Super Bowl. Why not give him one more toy to play with? Beckham is as good a downfield threat as there is in the NFL (right up there with Julio Jones and Antonio Brown), but is just as good in traffic, able to slip past tacklers with strength and speed.
Imagining it might be possible, let’s take a look at the biggest concerns.
■ Beckham can’t stay healthy.
Last season ended early because of an ankle injury, and Beckham has had issues with his hamstrings in the past. But even missing a few games does not offset his productivity when on the field.
In 47 career games, Beckham has 313 catches for 4,424 yards and 38 touchdowns, averaging 14.1 yards per catch. In his first three (full) seasons, he had at least 90 catches and 1,300 yards, and too many memorable moments to count, from one-hand acrobatics to after-the-catch highlights.
■ He has off-the-field issues.
This is true. From the ill-advised (a pre-playoff boat trip to Miami), to the ridiculous (a post-touchdown dog-peeing pose), from the weird (a kicking-net wedding proposal drama), to the serious (a recent Paris hotel video showing Beckham in the company of a woman and some white powder), Beckham, in the words of a longtime Giants employee, “can give aspirin a headache.”
But Belichick could be the perfect antidote, a my-way-or-no-way boss unafraid of dealing with difficult players. And at 25, Beckham can still mature.
■ He doesn’t respect his bosses.
This one is tough to read, as it was clear that the leadership of former Giants coach Ben McAdoo was disastrous across the board. But Beckham is working on his third coach in five years, and his immaturity no doubt played a role in the demise of both Tom Coughlin and McAdoo.
But this much is certain: Beckham has the respect of his teammates.
He is beloved in the Giants locker room, and Beckham’s fellow players never doubted his competitiveness, his desire to win, or his work ethic.
And he seems to share that respect with Brady, as the two shared Instagram messages this offseason, wherein Beckham revealed the custom Brady jersey in his collection and Brady quoted rap lyrics to finish off a Beckham caption.
The two actually exchanged jerseys after a 2016 preseason game, and Beckham once described the Patriots as his least-favorite favorite team, admiring and hating their success all at once.
Again, all of this is highly unlikely. But any chance to unite one of the game’s best wide receivers with the game’s best-ever quarterback is worth investigating, no matter how slim the odds.
You thought Brady and Randy Moss made for a good combination? Imagine Brady and Beckham.
Of course it would be difficult, given an undoubtedly high price tag versus an undeniably low draft position, but in a fast-moving, trade-driven offseason, why not go for it?
Make the call, Patriots. Give it a shot.