The situation between the Cleveland Browns and polarizing receiver Odell Beckham Jr. has hit a critical point.
The drama intensified Tuesday, when the NFL trade deadline passed without the Browns dealing Beckham. Social-media drama centered around an Instagram video posted by Beckham’s father, Odell Beckham Sr., only added to the rift. In the video, Beckham Sr. highlighted the Browns’ missed opportunities in getting OBJ the ball.
On Wednesday, Browns coach Kevin Stefanski said that Beckham was excused from practice with the team citing a noninjury-related personal matter. As of Wednesday, neither Stefanski nor quarterback Baker Mayfield had talked to Beckham, further highlighting the divide between the team and the three-time Pro Bowl receiver with a history of being a distraction.
What is Odell Beckham’s status with the Browns?
It seems very likely that the Browns are preparing to move on without Beckham, who is under contract for two more seasons but is not guaranteed any money after 2021.
Beckham’s agents and Browns general manager Andrew Berry are discussing options with the player’s future. Beckham is still due approximately $8 million guaranteed of the $15.75 million he’s making this year. If Beckham were released by the Browns and cleared waivers, he would become a free agent and be able to sign with any team. However, it wouldn’t be realistic for another franchise to pursue him until he cleared waivers because it would be on the hook for the $8 million.
The timing isn’t great for the Browns, either. An expected Super Bowl contender in the preseason, the Browns are among the most disappointing teams midway through the 2021 season. On Sunday, the Browns (4-4) play their AFC North rivals, the Bengals (5-3), on the road in Cincinnati. The Browns currently sit in last place in the AFC North.
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What happened on NFL trade deadline day?
On Tuesday, ESPN reported that Beckham no longer wanted to be with the Browns and the team was in trade discussions with the New Orleans Saints. However, the two teams could not reach an agreement, given how much Beckham is owed. This development came after Sunday’s 15-10 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, a game in which Beckham was targeted just twice, the receiver catching one pass for 6 yards.
Early in the morning on trade deadline day, Beckham Sr. posted a video to his verified Instagram account to point out how the Browns have failed to get the ball to OBJ. Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James also offered his support for OBJ on Twitter, writing “OBJ will show again why he’s special. WR1 #FreeOBJ.”
What about the relationship between Odell Beckham and Baker Mayfield?
In all, Beckham has had an unproductive and injury-prone tenure in Cleveland. He played in all 16 games in his first season with the team in 2019, Mayfield’s second NFL season. However, Beckham has played in just 13 games in the two seasons since. While attaining 1,035 yards receiving in 2019, Beckham has just 551 yards receiving combined in 2020-21. This comes after a successful tenure with the New York Giants, with whom Beckham established himself as one of the NFL’s most dynamic offensive players.
With Beckham’s LSU teammate Jarvis Landry already on the roster, there was much optimism about a high-octane offense in Cleveland when the team acquired Beckham in 2019. While Mayfield and Landry continue to enjoy a good on-field connection, that has not been the case with Mayfield and Beckham. In six games this season, Beckham has 17 catches on 34 targets for 232 yards and two carries for 14 yards without scoring a touchdown. The last time Beckham scored a touchdown for the Browns was in the 49-38 win over the Dallas Cowboys on Oct. 4, 2020.
That low level of production and the lack of involvement in the offense led to the events of this week, with Mayfield being called out by Beckham’s father for not throwing the ball to his son.
Following Wednesday’s practice, Mayfield said he was surprised, but not hurt, by the video posted by Beckham’s father. Mayfield also did not rule out a reconciliation with Beckham.
“If he’s back, then we’ll work through it and do whatever it takes,” Mayfield said Wednesday. “I can put my ego and pride to the side to win because that’s all I care about.
“But if not, then we’ll roll with the guys we have out there, and those guys will know that I completely trust them and they’ll know that I’m always here for them. That’s the leader and that’s the type of quarterback I am.”
When asked if he’d like to have Beckham back with the team, Mayfield said he “would take anything to have a winning team right now.”
“Our focus needs to be on winning and anything like this, stuff that gets created on the outside drama-wise takes away the focus and the attention to detail that we need to have,” Mayfield said. “We haven’t been able to win because we haven’t executed well enough to be able to do that, and so I think a lot of this is frustration.
“It’s tension that’s built up because we’re not playing how we should be, and we want to be better. We want to be better than .500, but that’s where we’re at right now, so it’s time to look in the mirror and handle those things internally because nothing on the outside is going to help us. It’s only going to create drama.”
Contributing: Nate Ulrich, Akron Beacon Journal; The Associated Press