Odell Beckham Jr. to the Patriots? It’s not fantasy football
It’s perpetually Patriots season, even if the Patriots are just basking in the warm afterglow of a sixth Super Bowl title, enjoying their victory laps and vacations. As coach Bill Belichick famously said, no days off. You can bet his beautiful mind is on to the 2019 season.
That season would get a lot more interesting if the Patriots grabbed the NFL’s foremost purveyor of jaw-dropping one-handed grabs, one Odell Beckham Jr. They have to revamp their wide receiving corps, so why not aim for Randy Moss redux?
Beckham catching touchdowns passes from Tom Brady feels like the stuff of fantasy football — actually, in any fantasy football league, the commissioner would veto this team trading for Beckham — but it’s a drool-worthy possibility with some roots in reality. Like one of Beckham’s signature catches, it appears unlikely, but it’s not impossible.
The relationship between the volatile and voluble wide receiver and the New York Giants has been on rocky ground for a couple of years. NFL insider buzz is building that Beckham could be on the trade block again. Jay Glazer of The Athletic and Fox Sports started it. Former Patriots coaching assistant and “Pro Football Talk Live” cohost Chris Simms announced the Giants were really close to trading Beckham last year and that the team that was most aggressive in pursuing Beckham was . . . the Patriots. Simms said the Patriots were trying to get Beckham all last offseason.
Beckham added fuel to the fire when he commented, “Love u brother,” on a Brady family vacation Instagram post last Saturday. It sparked the type of intrigue and social media deciphering usually reserved for the NBA.
The rest of the NFL would be apoplectic if the Patriots swooped in and snagged the ridiculously talented receiver.
Do it, Bill.
Why would the Giants want to trade their best player just one season after signing him to a five-year, $95 million extension?
Simply put, the passionate and impetuous pass-catcher is a handful, and the buttoned-down Giants don’t know how to handle him. Plus, Beckham doesn’t handle losing well, which the Giants have done a lot. Since Beckham entered the league in 2014, the Giants have had one winning season.
The Giants are approaching a changing of the guard at quarterback as erratic Eli Manning succumbs to Father Time. It’s hard to envision Beckham, who turns 27 in November, exhibiting much patience for the rookie learning curve of, say, Ohio State quarterback prospect Dwayne Haskins. If a team invests a high pick in a quarterback, it doesn’t want his gestation period disturbed by an overbearing wideout with a win-now attitude.
Obviously, there are some obstacles to the Patriots acquiring Beckham: asset cost, salary-cap space, and Beckham’s fit in somewhat fusty Fort Foxborough, given his temperamental nature and tendency to gravitate to the limelight. But the last of those three caveats should be the least of their concerns.
By most accounts, Beckham is not a bad guy or a bad teammate. He displays the requisite passion for football that is essential to succeeding under Belichick. What are the worst offenses that Beckham has committed in his career — assaulting a kicking net, taking an ill-advised trip to Miami to celebrate making the playoffs for the first time, failing to inform the Giants about a Lil Wayne-accompanied ESPN interview, and then being less than tactful in relaying his frustrations during it?
Most of Beckham’s transgressions seem to center around immaturity and losing. Foxborough would be the ideal place for him to work out both issues. He could use some structure, discipline, and success to orient his career in the right direction. The Patriots can provide that for Beckham, who hasn’t tasted a playoff victory in his dazzling career.
Belichick is adept at wrangling and integrating big personalities, outspoken players, and free thinkers into the Foxborough fold from across the NFL spectrum. He has done it with Rodney Harrison, Corey Dillon, Randy Moss, Darrelle Revis, Martellus Bennett, and Chris Long. If anyone could get the most out of the recalcitrant receiver, it’s Belichick — with some help from Brady.
It’s obvious that Beckham is taken with Brady’s greatness and GOAT status. But Brady has left some bromance bread crumbs to lead Beckham to New England.
When Beckham was castigated in 2017 for partying in Miami on a boat following the 2016 regular-season finale and six days before New York faced the Green Bay Packers in the playoffs, Brady leapt to his defense. The QB has also rationalized Beckham’s displays of passion — the Giants would call them tantrums — on the sidelines.
Beckham is exactly the type of dynamic talent that would make Brady’s job easier as he chases a seventh Super Bowl ring at age 42. OBJ is a game-changer and a game-breaker. He can take a 7-yard slant and turn it into a 70-yard score.
Of course, the cost of procuring Beckham’s services would be high. The going rate for game-changing wide receivers is a first-round pick. Amari Cooper was dealt to the Dallas Cowboys last season for a first-rounder. When the Patriots traded for Brandin Cooks in 2018, they sent the final pick of the first round and a third-round pick to New Orleans while receiving Cooks and a fourth-rounder. When the Patriots dealt Cooks to the Los Angeles Rams last offseason, the return was a first-round pick (No. 23) and a sixth-round pick for Cooks and a fourth.
The baseline for OBJ is established at a first-round pick-plus . . . and he would cost more than Cooper or Cooks because he’s superior.
The Patriots possess the 32nd pick in the first round this year and are projected to have as many as six picks in the first three rounds, factoring in compensatory picks. Giving the Giants a first and a third this year and a conditional pick next year is doable for the Patriots, who have never utilized a first-round pick to draft a receiver in the Belichick era. It’s probably also preferable to asking Brady to rely on a rookie receiver.
As one Patriots pass-catcher pointed out to me, it’s not a coincidence that you don’t see too many young guys in prominent roles in the passing attack.
The biggest impediment to Beckham bringing the most exciting routes to Route 1 since Moss is the salary cap. The Giants and their Dorchester-bred GM Dave Gettleman would have to be willing to eat $16 million in dead money. (New York swallowed $15 million of dead money last offseason to ship off pass-rusher Jason Pierre-Paul.) The Patriots would have to clear cap space to accommodate OBJ’s large 2019 base salary of $16.75 million, which is fully guaranteed.
But as a wise man with the initials BB once said, cap space can be maneuvered, as we all know, in a number of different ways. Lowering Brady’s $27 million cap charge for next season with an extension would be a start.
Beckham running a go route to the Patriots is more than a fantasy.