It was less than a year ago that New York Giants co-owner John Mara stood on the patio outside the team’s facility and declared Odell Beckham Jr. “deserves to get paid; we’re going to pay him.” Seven months later, Mara couldn’t guarantee Beckham would be on their roster come Week 1.
The situation with the Giants' top playmaker is as volatile as the receiver himself. Even the team’s brass conceded that after going 3-13, nobody is safe, and anything can happen after Beckham's leg shattered last October.
The Giants have a new regime with coach Pat Shurmur and general manager Dave Gettleman. Beckham wants a new contract. They must decide if -- and when -- they are willing to hand him a lucrative deal that probably would make him the highest-paid wide receiver in the league despite Mara saying recently he was tired of being asked about Beckham’s behavior.
The Giants’ rhetoric in recent weeks sparked trade discussions. That has died down some over the past few weeks, and Beckham showed up Monday for the start of the team’s offseason workout program. Finally, things seem headed in the right direction.
But where will the saga end? Here are some scenarios in order from most likely to least likely.
1. Signs with Giants
The Giants don’t want to trade Beckham. He’s a transcendent talent. It would take a Herschel Walker-like haul to pry him from their vise grip. As long as Beckham does the right things -- showing up for the start of offseason workouts is a start -- the Giants will commit to him. But there can’t be another troubling video or incident that provides further doubt that he can be trusted. Beckham won’t be the highest-paid player in the league with his new contract from the Giants. That was always a pipe dream. But he will get rewarded as the NFL’s top-paid wide receiver, and surpass the $17 million per season of Antonio Brown and $55 million guaranteed that Mike Evans recently received from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Giants have had enough trouble drafting difference-making players. It would take extraordinary circumstance for Beckham not to eventually get a second contract with the team that selected him in the first round (12th overall) of the 2014 NFL draft. He’s their best player.
The Giants opened the window and screamed for the other 31 teams to submit their best offer with their actions at the NFL’s annual meeting several weeks back. They made it clear Beckham is not necessarily on the trading block, but they’re willing to listen to offers. “There is nothing on the horizon right now, but you never know,” co-owner John Mara said at one point. If there is an offer that blows the Giants away, they would consider pulling the trigger. It would have to be a monster package. ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported it would start with two first-round picks. And what kind of first-round picks are we talking about? It’s unlikely given concerns about whether Beckham can be trusted to do the right things and the amount it would cost to re-sign him that anybody will present an offer that really attracts the Giants. A trade is possible but unlikely. I recently put his chances of staying at 80 percent, and thus his chances of being traded at 20 percent.
3. Play out deal
This would be a non-optimal option because it would create tension between the parties and a circus around Shurmur’s first season. The Giants essentially need to decide whether they want to sign or trade Beckham by April 26, the first day of the NFL draft. Otherwise, it will eventually turn ugly. Beckham does not want to get on the field and put his financial future at risk after what happened last year, when he twice watched his career flash in front of his eyes while playing for $1.8 million. He’s set to earn $8.5 million this year, but sitting in his sights is the $60 million or more guaranteed that probably awaits him in a long-term deal. Is it worth his while to risk $60 million for $8.5 million? That’s a bad business decision, especially in training camp and the preseason. Beckham would stay away or be held out of those workouts and games. He would be unhappy. It would create a lot of drama. This wouldn’t be good for the Giants or Beckham.
4. Cut him
The Giants cutting Beckham would seem foolish, especially at this point. Why get rid of such a talented and special player without getting anything in return? The only way this happens is if Beckham gets himself in trouble. Otherwise, there is no way the Giants are cutting their top playmaker and losing him without receiving anything in return. But things happen in the NFL. Nobody could have predicted DeSean Jackson getting cut by the Eagles in 2014, Josh Norman having the franchise tag pulled out from under him by the Carolina Panthers in 2016, or Aldon Smith needing to be released by the San Francisco 49ers in 2015, just two years after an All-Pro season. Anything can happen, but this is a highly unlikely scenario for a player who has never been in trouble with the law and is extremely popular in the locker room and among his teammates.
5. Sit out
Not playing for the full year isn’t a realistic option for NFL players, even one who possesses the ability to earn outside income like Beckham. Aaron Donald held out last year and he eventually reported to the Rams prior to Week 1. If he held out past a November deadline, his contract would have tolled, meaning he would have been back in the same place this year. The threat of sitting out a season always sounds nice, but it doesn’t happen. It won’t happen in this case either, even if threats are made at some point.