Odell Beckham Jr. returned this season after tearing his ACL halfway through 2020. His first game back was a success, catching five balls for 70 yards, but the wide receiver has disappeared over the last two games, both Cleveland Browns losses. Much has been and will be made about his connection with Baker Mayfield; while OBJ's talent has been obvious since he was drafted, he and Mayfield have struggled to connect on a consistent basis over the last few years.
The receiver's injury history, price tag, and chemistry with Mayfield all play a role in the latest report from The Athletic that suggests the Browns will move on from Beckham Jr. this offseason. Per Jeff Howe:
It’s possible Odell Beckham Jr. could be on the move again.
Sources familiar with the Cleveland Browns’ thinking suggested this could be the wide receiver’s final season with the team. Beckham is under contract through 2023.
Beckham’s performance could change the narrative over the next few months. But right now, there are signs pointing toward this being Beckham’s final stretch run in Cleveland.
Howe does note that teams asked by The Athletic said they haven't heard Beckham's name on the trade block yet, and the Browns could end up keeping the wideout because they already paid him $12 million of his $14 million salary. A trade would bring no cap relief, and keeping him around just in case he has a huge moment in an important game is worth sacrificing possible trade value mid-season.
But! If things continue to go downhill for Beckham and the Browns, Cleveland could very well decide to just move on and get something while they can. If they do go that route, here are four possible destinations.
New England Patriots
The Patriots dropped big money to bolster their pass-catching corps this offseason but didn't invest in any above-average wide receivers. The early returns on 2021 show that a player who can get separation outside the hash marks would be immensely valuable to Mac Jones, and so they'd have to look into this. New England doesn't have a lot of cap room but trading for OBJ this season would help mitigate that for the same reasons the Browns aren't under pressure to trade the receiver mentioned above. The Patriots don't have a ton to offer in terms of young talent but would be more willing to part with a higher draft pick considering Bill Belichick's win-now mandate. However, if Belichick wanted to pull one of his old tricks and move on from a good player who he doesn't want to give a big contract, J.C. Jackson for OBJ could definitely be in the cards. Jackson is an elite cornerback who will be an unrestricted free agent next year and would represent an incredible haul in exchange for OBJ's services.
New Orleans Saints
The Saints have their own big-money wideout they aren't terribly happy with right now in the form of Michael Thomas. Thomas is a pass-catching machine but missed a chunk of last season with an injury and ended up on the IR to start this season because he opted to get surgery later than the Saints advised. In terms of on-field production, Thomas is a better player than OBJ. But the former comes with his limitations and Sean Payton may decide he's better off with Beckham's big-play ability and clean slate rather than going through another year of Thomas controversy.
The Lions are in no way, shape, or form a win-now team. Trading for OBJ is a win-now move. But it's hard to pick anyone other than Detroit when thinking about who needs receiver help the most. The Lions have the worst wideout room in the league and it is not even close. They also have a few extra draft picks from the Matthew Stafford trade. It appears the Lions want to be somewhat competitve while they work to find their quarterback of the future but they cannot do that with a receiving corps currently led by Amon-Ra St. Brown and Kalif Raymond. If Cleveland is looking to get something in return for OBJ instead of cutting him outright this summer, the Lions are a possible partner.
The Eagles have struggled to win games this season in part because of their lack of talent at receiver. It isn't as bad as it was, say, last year, but things still are not great. Philly is committed to Jalen Hurts and the young QB is doing everything he can but it hasn't been enough so far. Bringing in OBJ to pair with DeVonta Smith would make for an elite tandem and OBJ feels like the kind of athlete that would thrive in the city under the right circumstances. Plus, a return to the NFC East would be a fun full-circle moment. If the Eagles really feel like they can compete for the division title this year, this is a trade they look into.