The Patriots didn’t make any moves at the trade deadline, but they might just luck into a premium player anyway.
Wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. was released by the Browns on Friday after a dramatic saga between the two sides came to a head this week before and after the deadline. The team excused the dynamic wideout from practice on Wednesday and Thursday before cutting ties with him Friday morning.
The former New York Giants superstar apparently had grown frustrated with his lack of opportunity and production in Cleveland, notching just 17 catches for 232 yards.
Beckham will now hit the waiver wire, where teams like the Patriots can put in claims for him by Monday.
Cleveland will also take on a large chunk of Beckham’s remaining salary, allowing a claiming team to sign him for roughly $1 million for the rest of the season, according to ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler. That could make the waiver market for Beckham an exciting one, especially for a team like the Patriots.
New England currently sits at 15th overall on the waiver priority list behind teams like the New York Jets and Miami Dolphins. And with the Browns taking on so much money, the Patriots could easily afford to fit him under their remaining cap space, according to salary cap expert Miguel Benzan.
The biggest “pro” of signing Beckham, obviously, is his star power. At his peak, he was easily one of the best and most exciting players, not just wide receivers, in football. His speed, elite hands, and excellent route-running ability, when healthy, make him one of the toughest covers in football, and he has ways of making impossible catches look routine.
If he comes to New England, he immediately becomes the team’s best wide receiver and makes the passing offense significantly more dangerous. His mere presence demands extra attention from corners and safeties, which could open up even more opportunities for the likes of Jakobi Meyers, Nelson Agholor, and the tight ends.
But Beckham’s more than just highlight plays. He produces: he’s topped 1,000 receiving yards in every season in which he’s played 12 or more games.
Unfortunately, health has been an issue for Beckham at times before: he suffered a fractured ankle in 2017, cutting his season short after four games, and is coming back from a torn ACL that ended his 2020 season prematurely. He also suffered a shoulder injury in the Browns’ loss to the Cardinals in October.
Beckham also has a reputation for being difficult, reportedly leading New York to trade him because of his on- and off-the-field distractions and, most recently, demanding a trade from the Browns and forcing his way out of Cleveland.
For the Patriots’ purposes, though, the drama might not be that much of an issue. New England has certainly taken on bigger character projects than this, including bringing in famously outspoken receiver Randy Moss and getting him to buy into the program for a few years.
Beckham reportedly has a great deal of respect for Bill Belichick and the Patriots, which might make things a bit easier should the two sides converge in the end.
With many of the teams ahead of the Patriots in the waiver priority list not likely to be playoff contenders and then therefore not likely to have much use for Beckham, New England stands a solid chance of putting in a successful claim for the receiver. He might also be much less likely to object to playing in Foxborough for a team with respectable prospects and a good young quarterback in Mac Jones than for a scuffling team like the Dolphins or the Eagles.
Still, Beckham’s affordability will make him enticing to every team ahead of New England. And a squad like the Seattle Seahawks, who aren’t playing well at the moment but could get Russell Wilson back from injury soon, or the middling Minnesota Vikings might be a dark horse to steal Beckham out from under the Patriots’ noses.
The receiver’s next destination won’t be known until next week. If he ends up in New England, this season could get very exciting.
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