Despite being only 29 years old, based on his statistics and games missed due to injuries the past few seasons,Odell Beckham Jr. could be in the twilight of his career. Through six games this season, OBJ is averaging the fewest yards per game, fewest receptions per game, lowest catch rate, fewest yards per target, and has yet to reach the end zone.
Beckham still has the ability to find space in zones and break away from defensive backs on deep routes, but Browns’ quarterback Baker Mayfield was consistently unable to find Beckham on those routes. Obviously, Beckham became frustrated with Mayfield and was let go from the Browns. After going unclaimed on waivers, Beckham is a free agent, and he’s made it known which teams he wants to join.
The Green Bay Packers, Kansas City Chiefs, and New Orleans Saints are Beckham’s preferred destinations. While the Seahawks and Patriots have expressed interest in the three-time Pro Bowler, Beckham did not list them among the teams he would like to sign with.
The first thing I thought when I saw this list is “Would Beckham to the Packers really be a good thing?” Throughout his entire career, Beckham has not gotten along with his quarterbacks when they don’t look his way. With the Giants, he called out Eli Manning when the team started 1-3 in 2018. With the Browns, obviously, Beckham and his father have gone after the former Heisman winner Baker Mayfield in an effort to get him out of Cleveland.
While his relationship with every new quarterback always starts off all lovey-dovey and hunky-dory, the honeymoon phase fades away when either the team struggles to win or Beckham struggles to put up Pro Bowl-caliber numbers.
When Beckham joined the Giants and Browns, he was immediately thrust into the No. 1 receiver role with those teams. He won’t have that luxury if he signs with Green Bay. Davante Adams is the top option for Rodgers in the passing game, and will be for the foreseeable future. If Beckham doesn’t see the targets he wants right off the bat, he might experience a shorter honeymoon phase than he had with the Browns or Giants. Not to mention, Rodgers is a pretty stubborn guy, and I’m not even talking about the COVID stuff. Have you forgotten how he held the Packers by the neck this offseason? If Rodgers doesn’t get his way, then all hell breaks loose. Every receiver Rodgers has ever had (aside from that one time Greg Jennings spoke out about Rodgers in retirement) has understood that Rodgers is the man in charge. He’s won three MVPs and a Super Bowl, all while making Packers fans forget about Brett Favre. It’s his way or the highway. Beckham likely wouldn’t fall into that mold however, making his relationship with Rodgers all the more likely to break early on.
As for the Chiefs, with all the drops Patrick Mahomes has had to suffer through this season, it makes sense that Kansas City would be in the market for a capable number-two option on the outside. Beckham would likely fit into the system right away and at the very least, would fill a role similar to Sammy Watkins in his last few seasons at Arrowhead. That being said, while the drops have certainly been an issue plaguing the Chiefs’ offense, Mahomes’ decision-making hasn’t helped either. Mahomes has consistently forced throws this season whether they be into coverage or while he’s being dragged to the ground by a defender. While Mahomes had gotten away with a lot of those decisions in his first few seasons, his luck seems to be catching up to him in 2021.
Although adding Beckham to the Chiefs’ roster wouldn’t help with Mahomes’ decision-making, Beckham’s ability to get open off the line of scrimmage would open up more short-passing opportunities and half-field reads making Mahomes’ job that much easier and limiting Mahomes’ opportunities to make bad decisions. The only problem is that Beckham doesn’t like to run short routes. When talking about Eli Manning in 2018, Beckham said:
“Can [Manning] still throw it, yeah, but it’s been pretty safe and it’s been, you know ... cool catching shallow (routes) and trying to take it to the house. But I’m, you know, I want to go over the top of somebody. How come we don’t attempt or try to throw the ball for more than 20 yards?”
Beckham won’t have nearly the same opportunity to go deep in Kansas City as he had in Cleveland. Deep routes are Tyreek Hill’s specialty, and as great as Beckham is, he’s no Tyreek Hill. Not to mention that of the three teams Beckham listed, the Chiefs are struggling the most. Therefore, if the Chiefs don’t start winning after acquiring Beckham, and Beckham isn’t seeing the kinds of targets he wants, it’s hard to imagine a scenario where Beckham enjoys his time in Kansas City. It’s likely that the relationship between Beckham and Andy Reid would end in a similar fashion to Le’Veon Bell’s departure from the team.
The Saints make the most sense for Beckham. Not only is Sean Payton a coach notorious for managing difficult personalities, but the Saints are also in dire need of someone with Beckham’s skill set. Beckham is most effective as an intermediate-to-deep route runner. While Marquez Callaway already fills that role for the Saints, he doesn’t have anywhere near the same effectiveness as Beckham does on those routes.
Taysom Hill at quarterback does limit Beckham’s ceiling, but the Saints have shown that they don’t need an elite quarterback in order to play solid football. Beckham could join the roster and be the top passing option right away. Even on a team that’s unlikely to pass the ball much, Beckham would still likely see an absurdly high target share and would be the go-to deep threat on the roster. Throw in the fact that the Saints will likely make the playoffs and that Michael Thomas is done for the season with an ankle injury, and I see no reason why Beckham wouldn’t fit like a glove in New Orleans’ offense.
If Beckham can find the right system, he will be able to thrive. Beckham has maintained an elite ability to find soft spots in zone coverage, which is a useful skill in every NFL system. Much like Randy Moss after he joined the Patriots in 2007, Beckham could find new life given the right circumstances.
In fact, Beckham’s career with the Browns and Moss’ career with the Raiders are quite similar. Both played 29 games with their teams. Moss had 219 targets; Beckham had 210. Moss had 102 receptions; Beckham had 114. Moss had 1,558 receiving yards; Beckham had 1,586. Moss (11 touchdowns with Oakland) did find the end zone more often than Beckham (seven touchdowns with Cleveland), but the similarities are still there.
Many people thought Moss was washed up when he headed to Foxborough. All he did in his first season there was put up arguably the greatest receiving season of all-time. I’m not saying Beckham is as talented as Randy Moss, but they were both 29 when they left their teams and their numbers are eerily similar. Beckham’s still got a lot left in the tank. Don’t count him out just yet.