NFL Teams Would Be Wise Not to Overpay for Odell Beckham Jr. on Trade Market

Doug Farrar@@BR_DougFarrar NFL Lead ScoutApril 2, 2018

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - OCTOBER 08:  Odell Beckham #13 of the New York Giants pretends to administer CPR to the football while celebrating a touchdown during their game against Los Angeles Chargers at MetLife Stadium on October 8, 2017 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

Over his first three seasons with the New York Giants, Odell Beckham Jr. posted the most receptions (288) and was the most-targeted receiver (457) in NFL history. 

He also had the most yards per game (95.9), the second-most yards (4,122, behind only Randy Moss' 4,163) and the fifth-most touchdowns (35). He is perhaps the most explosive receiver of his generation both before and after the catch and, when healthy, he's the most feared offensive player in a one-on-one matchup, though Rob Gronkowski would have an argument there.

Beckham lost 11 games of his 2017 season to a broken ankle (12 overall), but his 25 catches on 41 targets for 302 yards and three touchdowns in just four games, in a highly dysfunctional offense, speaks just as well to his productivity.

And still, the Giants seem intent on, if not trading him outright, at least seeing what the market will bear.

On March 27, co-owner John Mara said the Giants were listening to offers for Beckham, but that he was not on the block, per Ralph Vacchiano of SNY. One day later, ESPN's Adam Schefter reported the Giants were looking for at least two first-round picks if Beckham were to be dealt.

Around that time, Pat Leonard of the New York Daily News reported the Los Angeles Rams had spoken with the Giants about a Beckham deal, with the 23rd overall pick in 2018 to dangle.

Beckham is in the final year of a rookie deal that will pay him $8.5 million on the fifth-year option, and he understandably wants a lot more than that—something in line with the highest-paid receivers in the game.

Per Over The Cap, there are six receivers with $30 million or more of guaranteed money built into their contracts, and when you look at the names (Mike Evans, DeAndre Hopkins, Julio Jones, Demaryius Thomas, Dez Bryant and Sammy Watkins), you can see that Beckham has a point.

The questions then become: Who will pay Beckham what he believes he's worth? Will it be another team but the Giants, where you'd need to weigh his salary concerns with the loss of perhaps multiple first-round picks?

New Giants general manager Dave Gettleman has a history of playing hardball with his best players. In Carolina, he released receiver Steve Smith and later rescinded the franchise tag originally placed on cornerback Josh Norman. Gettleman does not appear to be a fan of the win-win situation; he seems to prefer one where the front office emerges victorious.

That doesn't work in Beckham's favor, though Gettelman is saying all the right things.

"The past two days, there have been two reports about Odell that have been floatedthat he won't take the field without an extension and that the Rams are interested in trading for him," Gettleman said from the owners meetings March 27, per Jarrett Bell of USA Today. "I understand the reports; people are going to print stuff. I get it. But I want you to understand this: Neither Odell nor his agent have contacted us regarding either report."

"You don't quit on talent," Gettleman also said.

While this would be news to Panthers fans during Gettleman's tenure there, it does indicate some desire for Beckham to stay with the Giants and eventually sign a long-term deal.

There is also his history as a distraction to consider: His fruitless beefs with opposing cornerbacks during games and post-touchdown celebrations leading to penalties tend to indicate a guy who struggles to keep his head in the game.

There's also the fact that, for all his talent as a receiver who creates space against those same cornerbacks with his ridiculous speed and agility, Beckham isn't a great contested-catch option.

There are multiple examples on his tape over the last four seasons of defenders boxing him out at the boundary or over the middle, and Beckham doesn't always respond with the kind of physical presence that would increase his odds of making the catch.

This incompletion against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 4 of the 2017 season is but one example.

Beckham is lined up on the right side of the field with cornerback Brent Grimes facing him.

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At the snap, Beckham runs his boundary route, but Grimes manages to get inside position, shuttling Beckham to the sideline and putting himself in optimal position to deflect or intercept the pass.

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As the ball comes his way, Beckham appears to think he can move behind Grimes to catch it, but...

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Grimes, a wily veteran well-versed in aggressive coverage concepts, stays with Beckham and makes sure there's no catch.

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Beckham is not the kind of receiver who's engineered to win physical battles at the catch point. This makes sense in a way because he's also the best space-creating receiver of his generation and perhaps of all time. The ways Beckham can get free from coverage with his speed and agility could fill a book, but here are three examples.

We'll start with what looks like a contested catch against the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 5 but is actually a prime example of how Beckham creates space so he won't have to battle in close quarters with defenders.

Here, Beckham is aligned to the right side, covered by cornerback Trevor Williams.

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Beckham is going to run a short slant, and he clears the way for his cut in the route by pressing Williams out as he starts to make his cut.

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Williams tries to recover with his own physical presence, which turns into a declined penalty for defensive holding, but Beckham has created too much space with that uncalled push-off.

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To add insult to injury, Beckham catches the bobbled ball and gets to the ground before any of the Chargers defenders in the area can wallop him after the catch.

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This is an ideal example of how a smaller receiver (Beckham stands 5'11" and weighs 198 lbs) can get open without multiple pileups in the middle of the field. This is one of his two touchdowns against the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 3, and of all the plays in his abbreviated 2017 season, this one might best encapsulate what makes him special and unique.

Beckham is lined up to the right of the formation, with cornerback Jalen Mills covering him.

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At the snap, Beckham looks to be running an in-cut, so Mills mirrors him to the inside.

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Then, Beckham pulls off one of those moves that only he can do—at full speed on a cut, he jabs back to the right and leaves Mills in the dust.

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At the end of the play, with Mills out of coverage, Beckham brings in the ball with an impressive toe tap to the back of the end zone. This play brings to mind a famous quote from soccer star Zlatan Ibrahimovic: "First I went left; he did too. Then I went right, and he did too. Then I went left again, and he went to buy a hot dog."

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Beckham can create openings in just about any situation. In that regard, he stands alone. But if you're looking at the player's value in total—and any team giving up enormous draft capital and signing Beckham to a massive contract would—there are some issues to consider.

Beckham's relative inability to make contested catches creates incompletions for his quarterback. His catch rate went down from 70 percent in his rookie year to 60.8 percent in 2015 to 59.8 percent in 2016, rebounding a bit in 2017 at 61.0 percent.

If you were to compare him to another receiver with similar size and skill set (Pittsburgh's Antonio Brown), you'd see that over the last four seasons, Brown's catch rate has gone from 71.3 percent to 70.5 percent to 68.8 percent to 62.0 percent.

Brown has had more years in the league to ply his trade, but he's still an incredibly explosive receiver at age 29. And at 5'10" and 180 pounds, he's proved to be a better and more willing contested-catch player than Beckham.

Brown is in the second season of a $68 million contract extension that runs through 2021. Per Over The Cap, $32.9 million of that deal has been earned, but only $19 million—the signing bonus—is guaranteed. Brown may well make it through most or all of that deal, but one never knows.

If an NFL team is interested in ponying up at least that much for Beckham and would give up multiple high draft picks, that team better have an offense that allows Beckham to get open using creative route concepts. And it better have at least one high-quality receiver able to make the contested catches that Beckham can't.

In a fully integrated offense, Beckham could be the NFL's ultimate difference-maker. But he won't always be that on his own, and that should be factored into his value and the amount any team would need to trade.

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