The Odell Beckham Jr. derby is heating up, with the Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants believed to be at the front of the pack. But don't count out the Buffalo Bills.
Beckham was removed from an American Airlines flight on Sunday, though Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said the incident will have no bearing on his future with the team. His visits with the Giants and Bills remain unaffected, as well.
Beckham is scheduled to meet with the Bills on Friday, though the Giants and the Cowboys seem most likely to land the coveted free agent. The two division rivals are pitted against one another off the field after the Cowboys dominated the Giants in the second half on Thanksgiving.
Jones has already had a conversation with Beckham. He said it was a "great meeting." The Cowboys, who have a visit scheduled with the receiver on Monday, have been publicly recruiting Beckham. They are considered the "favorites," according to a source with knowledge of the situation.
Quarterback Dak Prescott, running back Ezekiel Elliott and linebacker Micah Parsons have all made their pitches.
The Giants are expected to meet with Beckham beginning Thursday. It's a getting-to-know-him session for the new regime. The Giants have perhaps been working more behind the scenes with two of his close friends, Saquon Barkley and Sterling Shepard, on the roster. Barkley and Shepard attended Beckham's lavish California birthday bash during their bye week.
Beckham is believed to be close to full health after tearing the ACL in his left knee in the Super Bowl win with the Los Angeles Rams in February. It has been nine months since the injury, and he's expected to sign with a new team in the next few weeks.
The question is where.
Why Beckham will sign with Dallas
If it is about winning, how can it not be the Cowboys? They swept the Giants this season. Which team is poised for a better postseason run? The Cowboys. Which quarterback would he rather have? Prescott. The Giants might be able to offer him a larger role as a receiver from the get go, considering what the Cowboys have in CeeDee Lamb and Michael Gallup, but the Cowboys have more going for them in every other department.
From Jones to Prescott, Elliott, Lamb and Parsons, the Cowboys have put a full-court recruiting press on Beckham that would make Kentucky men's basketball coach John Calipari proud. Normally Jones is quiet when it comes to free agents for fear of impacting the competitive nature of the negotiations. He has not been shy about his desire to add Beckham. -- Todd Archer
Why Beckham makes the Cowboys a contender
This question can't really be answered fully without knowing just how healthy he is and what type of condition he is in. But if all that checks out, then he gives the Cowboys another option on the outside. Should something happen to Lamb or Gallup, they would have a pretty good insurance policy.
The Cowboys are a run-first team with Elliott and Tony Pollard, but there will come a time when they will need to throw the ball to win, especially in the important games down the stretch and into the playoffs. Beckham showed last season with the Rams that he can learn a system quickly and have success. But there has to be a word of caution because of his knee. Gallup tore an ACL a month or so before Beckham and has needed time to round into form. Can Beckham really be, well, Beckham in short order? -- Archer
Likelihood Beckham re-signs with Dallas in 2023
I guess this is an assumption that he will accept a one-year offer as a rental player. That might be fine with the Cowboys, considering how tight they could be against the 2023 salary cap. But if it is not, then the Cowboys will likely have to move around quite a bit of money to make it all work. Prescott's cap figure next year is $49.13 million and the only way the Cowboys can gain relief would be to extend his contract.
They will have financial decisions to make on Tyron Smith and Elliott, while also trying to keep Pollard, tight end Dalton Schultz, safety Donovan Wilson and 17 others who are scheduled to be unrestricted free agents after this season. They can also open extension talks for the first time with Lamb and cornerback Trevon Diggs. The Cowboys had interest in acquiring Brandin Cooks at the trade deadline from the Houston Texans, but one of the hang-ups was the $18 million he was guaranteed in 2023. If Beckham is looking for top-end money, then this might not work, or would require the Cowboys to get out of their financial comfort zone with free agents. -- Archer
Why Beckham will sign with New York
Well, it's New York. The Big Apple. The place where Beckham was drafted No. 12 overall in 2014, burst onto the scene and made that breathtaking catch against, you know, the same Cowboys that want to sign him. This means something to Beckham. Being on the same team with Barkley and Shepard (even if he's on injured reserve) is an enticing proposition. They remain two of his closest friends. But as Barkley said recently, returning to New York, the place where Beckham began his career and reached stardom, means something. It would allow Beckham to remain in the spotlight and handle unfinished business.
He admittedly played the worst game of his career in his only playoff game with the Giants in a 2016 loss to the Green Bay Packers. "I think it would be a great story to come back to a place that you were at before and continue to help build success," Barkley said. The Giants star running back told ESPN after Thursday's game that he speaks to Beckham regularly. They talked as recently as last week. Beckham also maintained an amicable relationship with Giants ownership (John Mara and Steve Tisch) despite the messy 2018 divorce. His animosity was always directed at former general manager Dave Gettleman. -- Jordan Raanan
Why he makes the Giants a contender
The Giants' need at the position is well-documented. They're throwing borderline practice-squaders out there on a weekly basis. Any weapon would be a boost to their offense and for quarterback Daniel Jones. But what Beckham can actually bring to the table this season is unknown. This is something Barkley has repeatedly said -- Barkley himself needed a lot of time to get back to his former self after tearing an ACL.
It's the second time Beckham has torn that same ACL. Beckham is 30 years old and hasn't taken a single practice rep his season. Not in the spring, summer or fall. His range of outcomes when he does return varies greatly. Still, it's hard to imagine he's not an NFL-caliber receiver. Even if he's just a contributor, the Giants would take that. It's safe to say he can be an equal or No. 2 alongside Darius Slayton by default. The Giants just don't have much else at the position. -- Raanan
Likelihood he re-signs with New York in 2023
Everything I'm hearing is that Beckham wants more than a one-year deal. He wants some guaranteed money moving forward. Deals in the range of what the Tampa Bay Buccaneer's Chris Godwin and the Los Angeles Chargers' Mike Williams have signed have been mentioned. That doesn't seem realistic, especially with the Giants. If anything, general manager Joe Schoen has been extremely disciplined financially this season.
He hasn't made a single signing during this season that wasn't for the veteran minimum. One of his primary goals was to get the Giants salary cap in order this year and for the future. Putting any sort of significant money into the future with Beckham doesn't seem to fit what he's been doing. But from the start, there has been talk of Beckham going elsewhere for the remainder of this season and landing with the Giants next year. Maybe that is a more likely scenario than Beckham signing there now. -- Raanan
Why Beckham will sign with Buffalo
Josh Allen is a good place to start. Playing with the fifth-year quarterback has been part of the appeal for many of the team's additions in the past year. The Bills roster is one of the best in football, even with the offense's recent dip in performance in the five-game stretch since the bye week. They have shown an ability to win close games and still have an 8-3 record, despite not playing their best football. There is also plenty of opportunity to have a big role in the offense with the Bills hurting at wide receiver (Jamison Crowder, Marquez Stevenson and Jake Kumerow are all currently on injured reserve).
The team's wide receiver depth behind Stefon Diggs also hasn't quite played up to the level that the Bills would like, so adding someone like Beckham would give him plenty of opportunities to be an integral part of a solid offensive group.
And what's better than joining a team with your friends? Pass-rusher Von Miller has been publicly recruiting Beckham to join the Bills for months and is certainly also doing so behind the scenes. The pair won the Super Bowl together with the Rams last season and Miller's word certainly could go a long way. Beckham's former LSU teammate, cornerback Tre'Davious White, has also sent Beckham, "probably 2,700 Buffalo Bills emojis." -- Alaina Getzenberg
Why he makes Buffalo a contender
The Bills are a contender without Beckham, but adding a receiver of his caliber just takes this team that much stronger. Bills general manager Brandon Beane said earlier this month that, "if we think he can help this team, we'd be crazy not to at least look into it."
He would not only add to the Bills' receiving game as a target for Allen, but he would also take some of the attention away from Diggs, who is on pace to set career highs in receiving yards and touchdowns this season. As a team, the Bills have the third-most drops in the NFL (20) with Gabe Davis (six) and Isaiah McKenzie (four) combining for 10 of those. Davis, the team's No. 2 receiver, has dropped 10% of his targets. More consistency and reliability at the position will go a long way in helping Allen, and while Beckham's production hasn't been quite to the level it was earlier in his career, he did not drop any of his 48 regular-season targets with the Rams last season.
The Bills don't need Beckham to come in and be a No. 1 receiver, they have Diggs for that. But this receiver group has been a weakness at times, and adding someone with his talent and experience could be the boost the offense needs. -- Getzenberg
Likelihood he re-signs with Buffalo in 2023
It's certainly within the realm of possibilities. The Bills have most of their key players locked down for the foreseeable future and are looking to become contenders for the Super Bowl on a consistent basis. This is a team that is built just for that. It should be an appealing place for Beckham to settle in and play for over multiple seasons, especially after hearing about Miller's experience.
The question here could come down to how much Beckham is looking to be paid and the extent to which the Bills can trust his ability to stay healthy over a longer period. Beckham has only had two seasons in which he played in every regular-season game.
Buffalo has multiple starters set to hit free agency that have been key contributors to the defense this year in linebacker Tremaine Edmunds and safety Jordan Poyer. The Bills also currently have the lowest available cap space in the league for 2023, per ESPN's roster management, although that is subject to change. Beane has referenced wanting to build a team that is consistently making Super Bowl runs, not just putting all the chips in one basket (or season). There could be a fit here, as the Bills could use him in 2023, but it's not a necessity for the future that the Bills sign him long-term as help could also be found elsewhere. -- Getzenberg