Odell Beckham Jr.’s time with the Browns after his trade with the Giants was forgettable. He was mostly injured and ineffective as a downfield target for Baker Mayfiield, leading to Cleveland’s eventual release of the mercurial wide receiver.
Now the question is, can OBJ make it work with a third NFL team? The best remaining asset for Beckham, who turned 29 on Friday, is his name. Because of his highlight-reel past, there might be some clinging to hopes that he can return to his previous elite form.
There are six logical landing spots for him. Rebuilding teams should want no part of him given his age and diminishing returns. Contending teams will need to mull over him as a “luxury” addition and make sure he doesn’t upset the delicate balance of their locker room.
Here’s ranking those half-dozen teams by how they can best accommodate Beckham, in reverse order:
6. New England Patriots
The Patriots’ top three wide receivers are Nelson Agholor, Jakobi Meyers and Kendrick Bourne, so it’s worth bringing them up based on that fact alone. But they also have a rookie QB, Mac Jones, in a good headspace for their brand of run-heavy offense. Would they want to take a flyer on Beckham, knowing his presence can be a detriment to Jones the way it was for Mayfield?
Bill Belichick has taken chances on these type of fallen stars several times before, including Antonio Brown. But it’s different without Tom Brady and with a young budding leader in Jones. Beckham lacks the versatility and “do your job” mindset to please Belichick to the point that he can be more of a personnel problem than solution for offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels.
5. Baltimore Ravens
The Ravens always seem like they need wide receiver help for Lamar Jackson. But that’s discounting that Marquise “Hollywood” Brown is having a spectacular season as their speedy big-play threat and that first-round rookie Rashod Bateman is headed for a impactful second half as the No. 2. They also have good depth with veteran Sammy Watkins nearing a return from a thigh injury and youngsters James Proche, Miles Boykin and Devin Duvernay also on the roster.
Although the Ravens did sign Le’Veon Bell, that was out of desperate necessity in the backfield. OBJ at this point is superfluous to their passing needs, given that his own questionable health doesn’t give them any extra injury insurance.
4. Green Bay Packers
The Packers always get tied to upgrading wide receiver opposite Davante Adams because of inconsistency and injury issues for Allen Lazard, Marquez Valdes-Scantling and others. Had there been an avenue of availability for the Bears’ Allen Robinson, he would have been an ideal addition.
While OBJ deserves some consideration because of a deep threat profile that would mesh with Aaron Rodgers’ big arm, there should also be thought given to whether Rodgers and Beckham would have the needed chemistry with their personalities to make it work. There’s more weight toward the answering being no.
3. Kansas City Chiefs
Here we go again. The Chiefs are tied to Beckham because their offense has sagged and many outside observers have pointed to the lack of a reliable third target behind wide receiver Tyreek Hill and tight end Travis Kelce as a big factor. It’s true that there are limitations for Patrick Mahomes with the combination of Mecole Hardman, Demarcus Robinson and Byron Pringle. But the Chiefs already took a calculated chance on Josh Gordon as a potential complementary No. 2 to Hill and that hasn’t panned out yet.
On one hand, coach Andy Reid and GM Brett Veach might think OBJ provides a better chance to pan out than Gordon. On the other hand, Reid may be more focused on fixing more fundamental things with Mahomes, led by cutting down on turnovers. Mahomes, like Rodgers, has the big arm to boost Beckham. Adding a volatile target, however, may not be the best idea to get Mahomes out of his forced downfield passing mode.
2. Las Vegas Raiders
The Raiders are down a wide receiver after their absolute right decision to part ways with Henry Ruggs III. Beckham could be a direct replacement field-stretcher for Ruggs, but he suddenly shouldn’t be treated like a No. 1 wideout.
The Raiders’ passing game is in a groove without Jon Gruden, as Derek Carr is locked into Darren Waller, Hunter Renfrow and Bryan Edwards as his top three targets, along with running back Kenyan Drake also becoming a bigger factor as a receiver. There should be concern again about Beckham not clicking with Carr. GM Mike Mayock also should have the disappointment of Brown fresh on his mind.
Like the Packers, this is more of an “on paper, in theory” Beckham fit, but it could be disastrous if put into effect for either division leader.
1. New Orleans Saints
The Saints’ lack of an established quarterback with Jameis Winston on the shelf makes this the best spot for Beckham, because there’s no one he can disrupt. He can be the occasional big-play threat in what should be a run-heavy scheme, assuming Taysom Hill and not Trevor Siemian takes over as starting QB.
New Orleans learned earlier this week that Michael Thomas won’t be returning from his ankle injury at all in 2021. The team’s receiving depth chart is among the league’s worst with Marquez Callaway, Deonte Harris, Tre’Quan Smith, Kenny Stills and Ty Montgomery.
Beckham does need a good change of scenery to revive his career, but he also needs to be accepting of not being the alpha to make it work. He can help the Saints in many ways as long as he realizes they won’t be throwing to him more than a few times per game.
The obvious bonus is that Beckham is a New Orleans native, having attended Isidore Newman, the same high school as the Mannings. He want to LSU, making him a Louisiana guy through and through. The homecoming could provide a big assist in getting Beckham back on track.
Of the six teams rumored most for Beckham, in reality, the Saints are the only ones that make sense from every perspective.