UPDATE: ESPN’s Adam Schefter has reported the details on the Odell Beckham Jr. contract change and it has implications on this article. Throughout the piece, we will note the important updates.
The Cleveland Browns are releasing superstar wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. but should the Detroit Lions put in a waiver claim for him? Let’s look at the pros and cons of bringing Beckham to Detroit.
Note: the Lions hold the No. 1 priority waiver claim, so if they put in a claim on Beckham, they will be rewarded him and his contract.
Pro: Beckham is a two-time All-Pro and three-time Pro Bowler
The Lions have a massive need at receiver, both now and in the future. There is no doubting Beckham would immediately be the Lions' top option at receiver and would be a key piece to what’s been missing on offense.
Additionally, Beckham is under contract through 2023, which could offer the Lions some stability at the position during the rebuild.
Con: He hasn’t been an All-Pro or to the Pro Bowl since 2016
Beckham burst on the scene as a rookie—winning offensive rookie of the year honors in 2014—making insane one-handed catches and possessing all the swagger one could ask for. Unfortunately, while the swagger remains, his production has declined.
Over the last five seasons, Beckham’s receptions and touchdowns have dropped significantly from his first three seasons in the league.
- 2014-2016: Averaged 96 receptions and 11.6 touchdowns
- 2017: 25 receptions, 3 touchdowns
- 2018: 77 receptions, 6 touchdowns
- 2019: 74 receptions, 4 touchdowns
- 2020: 23 receptions, 3 touchdowns
- 2021 (through 8 games): 17 receptions, 0 touchdowns
OBJ career splits:— PFF (@PFF) November 5, 2021
92.2 grade w/ Giants (T-5th among WRs)
72.2 grade w/ Browns (T-55th among WRs) pic.twitter.com/gco6tuoaoX
It’s also not surprising that he hasn't received any postseason accolades since 2016, and that also fits in perfectly with his injury history.
Con: Injury history
In 2017, Beckham suffered an ankle injury in Giants camp, and after just four games into the season, he fractured it and was placed on injured reserve.
In 2018, he missed the final four games of the season due to a quad injury.
In 2019, wear and tear on his body led to hip and groin injuries and he required core muscle surgery in the offseason.
In 2020, after seven games, he tore his ACL and was placed on injured reserve.
Pro: Contract is reportedly team-friendly in 2021
UPDATE: Con: New contract is not team-friendly
On Thursday, I was asked how Beckham's contract would impact the Lions' salary cap if they claimed him (in a claiming situation, the player’s contract follows him to the new team, minus some of the bonuses that have to be absorbed by the original team). The short version was this: with roughly $7.25 million remaining in 2021, the Lions would need to free up significant cap space to acquire him and that would mean restructuring existing players—like Trey Flowers or Hal Vaiti—contracts to make space.
Things changed Friday morning.
UPDATE: Not so fast. Schefter is reporting Friday afternoon that the original contract numbers for 2021 (discussed in the first paragraph of this section) stay in place and it was not reduced.
NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport is reporting that the Browns are reducing Beckham’s base salary close to the league minimum and converting the rest into a signing bonus. This would instantly make Beckham’s contract affordable for the Lions and they would not have to restructure any contracts to make space.
After 2021, Beckham still has two years left on his contract, each accounting for a $15 million cap hit, per Overthecap.com. And because there would be no guaranteed bonuses (they were absorbed by the Browns) or guaranteed salary, the Lions could release or trade him with zero penalties.
UPDATE: Additionally, the change that was made was the removal of the final two years on his contract — thus removing the option to trade him after this season.
Con: Diva status may not be a culture fit
Quite simply, the Lions roster is very vulnerable right now, and the front office/coaches have been very deliberate in the types of players they have added to the roster. The Lions are trying to establish a new culture and there is no room for selfishness.
“I can’t say that I see anything negative (about team’s attitudes) right now,” coach Dan Campbell said earlier this week, as pointed out by Jeremy Reisman. “I feel like these guys are still coming in, they’re still coming to work, but we are very young and they can be influenced one way or another if we’re not careful. And that’s why you want the right guys around them, which I think we’ve got the right vets around them.”
I put the emphasis on the quote because it bears the question: Is Beckham one of those “right guys”?
The rift between Beckham and the Browns reportedly centers around him wanting to be a featured player, and while he would be WR1 in Detroit, how receptive would he be to joining a rebuild?
Pro: Lions’ front office is familiar with Beckham
When Beckham was traded from the Giants to the Browns, it was then Browns GM John Dorsey (currently with the Lions as a senior personnel executive) who was pulling the strings to make it happen.
He is very familiar with Beckham and his mentality, and if the Lions do claim him, it will probably be due to Dorsey signing off on it. At the same time, if they pass on Beckham, it’ll most likely be because Dorsey told them to stay away.
Con: He may not want to play in Detroit and could hold out
If the Lions do sign off on bringing him on and make a waiver claim, there’s still no guarantee he would report to Detroit. Remember, he asked the Browns for a trade, he wants a new contract, and he wants to control his status.
If he chooses to, he could simply not show up and hold out. But...
Pro: If he doesn’t show up, they still hold his rights and could trade him in the offseason
UPDATE: Con: if he doesn’t show up, the Lions can not trade him
Even if Beckham doesn’t report to Detroit, and holds out, the Lions could put in a claim with the commissioner's office and he could go on the exempt list. If that happens, the Lions would not be required to pay his salary and he would not count against their 53 man roster. Then, because they still hold his rights, could attempt to trade him in the offseason.
UPDATE: As noted from Schefter above, Beckham’s contract is set to expire after this season, and therefore he is no longer tradable after the season.
Beckham would give the Lions a legitimate WR1 option (even though he is not the player he was five years ago) and his contract is affordable in 2021. If he works out, he is signed through 2023, and if not, he could be traded or released in the future without penalty. The Lions can offer him an immediate increase in targets, but because they are at the beginning of a rebuild, the offensive consistency is still not there yet, which could cause frustrations. The Lions have Dorsey to guide them on if Beckham’s personality would fit into the culture change the Lions have been working to establish.
Alright. So what do you think, should the Lions make a waiver claim on Beckham? Vote below.
Should the Lions make a waiver claim on Beckham?
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