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Odell Beckham Jr. Signing Is Biggest Boom-or-Bust Move of 2021 NFL Season

Gary Davenport@@IDPSharksNFL AnalystNovember 12, 2021

FILE - Cleveland Browns wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. (13) walks off of the field prior to an NFL football game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Sunday, Oct. 31, 2021, in Cleveland. Beckham agreed to a one-year deal with the Rams on Thursday, Nov. 11, 2021, choosing Los Angeles and its burgeoning super team over several potential free-agent destinations. The Browns released Beckham on Monday midway through his third season in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Kirk Irwin, File)
Kirk Irwin/Associated Press

There is no shortage of words that one can associate with wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr.

Talented. Explosive. Exciting. Mercurial. Dramatic. Highlight Reel King (OK, that was three words). But to date, there's one word that has not been associated with the 29-year-old.

Champion.

It would appear that Beckham is hellbent on changing that. After clearing waivers, he could have signed with anyone who wanted him, and he certainly had his options. But Beckham appears to have prioritized winning a Super Bowl over target share, electing to sign with a Los Angeles Rams team that already had one of the better wide receiver rooms in the league.

For the Rams, it's just one more addition that shows Los Angeles is 1,000 percent in on winning now. For Beckham, it's a chance to win a title and put a disappointing tenure in Cleveland behind him. Plenty will see this as a huge win for both player and team.

Maybe it is. But there is also the potential for this signing to be viewed as a mistake in a few months. The bar for the Rams was just raised that much higher. The pressure on Beckham to perform is as great as it ever was. An argument can be made that there's only one way this signing will be considered a success.

And that's if OBJ and the Rams are standing on the SoFi Stadium field with confetti raining down on them on February 13.

Per ESPN's Jeremy Fowler, there were a number of Super Bowl contenders that made a pitch to Beckham, who was released by the Browns on Monday after two-and-a-half disappointing seasons in Cleveland.

Jeremy Fowler @JFowlerESPN

Packers made their push but remained at a minimum offer for Odell Beckham. Chiefs brass, including Andy Reid, attempted to sell Beckham on Kansas City. But Los Angeles won out.

But Beckham settled on the Rams, who sit a game back of the Arizona Cardinals in the NFC West. Per ESPN, Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford said he'll gladly take another weapon in the passing game and thinks Beckham will fit right in:

"It's an opportunity for us as a team, it's an opportunity for him to come in here and prove himself to us. What our room is about in the receiver room is pretty special. I know he'll fit right in and continue to get better and hopefully help us as a team. ... Everybody on our team carves out their role. They do a great job of figuring out what that role is going to be and going out there and proving it both on the practice field and in games and given the opportunities I know he'll do the same."

It doesn't take much thought to find things to like about this signing. With Beckham alongside Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods, the Rams now sport (on paper) the most dangerous wide receiver trio in the NFL. Beckham has five 1,000-yard seasons, 51 touchdown catches and three Pro Bowls on his professional resume.

Oh, and he did this, if you're into acrobatic catches:

Charles P @charles21180

Happy birthday @obj 🎂 it’s still the all time best catch in nfl history https://t.co/liarJKdvz3

Show-off.

The Rams were already third in the NFL in passing yards per game. Once Beckham is up to speed in the offense, they could become next to impossible to defend. If defenses double Cooper Kupp (who leads the league in targets, receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns), then some poor schmucks are going to have to man up in single coverage against Woods and Beckham.

Good luck with that.

However, while the potential payoff could be enormous for the Rams, this is by no means a no-risk signing for player or team. There are multiple things that could go wrong—and derail L.A.'s pursuit of a championship in the process.

For starters, Beckham made that catch against the Dallas Cowboys all the way back in 2014. His last 1,000-yard season came in 2019—his first season with the Browns. There have been multiple serious injuries along the way, including a fractured ankle in 2017 and an ACL tear in 2020. Over his first three seasons, Beckham scored 35 touchdowns. Over the last four-plus seasons, he has 16.

Beckham hasn't been the uncoverable megastar people remember in quite a while—at least not consistently.

There's also the matter of Beckham's exits from New York and Cleveland. In New York, Beckham publicly called out Giants management, said he wanted out not long after signing a massive extension—and then complained about being traded. In Cleveland, Beckham's father posted a video criticizing Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield for "missing" the wide receiver when he was open.

Beckham's drops were not featured in the video. Go figure.

David Richard/Associated Press

It was the same in both places. When Beckham became unhappy with his role, that unhappiness quickly became a massive (and public) distraction. There were teammates who stuck up for him, but according to NFL Network's Mike Garafolo, one unnamed Browns player said of Beckham: "He does nothing. He talks to no one. He's just got a malcontent attitude."

Then there's the matter of Beckham's fit with his new team. To this point in his career, Beckham has been the no-doubt No. 1 wide receiver wherever he has played. That isn't the case in Los Angeles. Kupp has emerged as Matthew Stafford's go-to receiver (and then some). Woods has been in Los Angeles since 2017 and knows Sean McVay's complex offense inside and out.

Browns safety John Johnson III knows that offense inside and out as well after spending his first four NFL seasons with the Rams. And while he wished Beckham nothing but success in his new home, Johnson told reporters he wonders how he will fit in.

"They had a good thing going, like a complete offense," Johnson said. "I don't know. I just feel, like, from being in L.A., I know for a fact the offense runs through Cooper Kupp; even in the run game, the pass game, the screen game, it kind of runs through Cooper Kupp. So obviously, Odell's a big name and he's going to want that attention as well. It will be interesting."

It's not like we haven't seen this movie before. In Los Angeles. This year. The Rams signed DeSean Jackson in the offseason as a vertical deep threat and complement to Kupp and Woods. Jackson became dissatisfied with his role and lack of targets and was eventually released.

There's also the matter of Beckham's next contract. NFL teams aren't likely to pay over $15 million a year to a No. 3 wide receiver. Beckham will want to show he's much more than that. And there are only so many targets to go around.

Now, maybe all this worrying will be for naught. Maybe Beckham will be a model teammate who accepts his role with the Rams and goes all-out to help the team any way he can. Maybe his addition will turn an already potent Rams offense into an unstoppable juggernaut that chews its way through the league all the way to Super Bowl LVI.

Kevork Djansezian/Associated Press

But in signing Beckham, the Rams fixed something that wasn't broken—and added a potentially volatile new element to the locker room. Expectations that were already sky-high where the Rams were concerned are now that much higher. Beckham was already one of the most talked-about players in the league, and that was when he was doing next to nothing on the field in Cleveland. Now, his every stat line will be the first topic on the following Monday's broadcast of Around the Horn.

If Beckham fits in seamlessly with the Rams and Los Angeles wins the Super Bowl, then general manager Les Snead will be hailed for making the moves needed to put the team over the top. But it has been quite a while since Odell Beckham fit in seamlessly anywhere.

And if this goes sideways, turns into a sideshow and the Rams come up short of that confetti bath, signing Beckham could do down as one of the bigger personnel boondoggles in recent memory.

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