The last thing the New York Jets need is a distraction, but the new offensive era could use an established top option at receiver.
Odell Beckham Jr.’s time working with the resurrection of one downtrodden franchise could be coming to an end. Could he assist in a new one via a return to East Rutherford?
A report from Jeff Howe of The Athletic hints that the Cleveland Browns could be moving on from the former New York Giant, who has failed to match the hype that surrounded 2019’s blockbuster trade that led to a blue-to-orange makeover. Beckham earned 1,035 yards in his first season in Cuyahoga County but an ACL injury limited him to only seven games of Cleveland’s first playoff run since 2002. He missed the first two games of this season while recovering from last year’s injury and earned 77 yards in his debut against Chicago, but has earned only 47 on four catches (10 targets) over the past two games. In that time, Cleveland’s aerial efforts have been headlined by David Njoku, Rashard Higgins, and Donovan Peoples-Jones.
There’s no guarantee that Cleveland (3-2) will ship Beckham off; the Browns earn back no cap relief if they trade him now and would save $15 million against the cap if they release him over the offseason. But a commodity like Beckham could fetch them a fine prize before the Nov. 2 trade deadline.
Should the New York Jets inquire?
At first glance, Beckham is perhaps the last thing this chapter of the Jets’ perpetual rebuild needs: they couldn’t avoid the temptation of Le’Veon Bell but stepping out of the Deshaun Watson/Antonio Brown sweepstakes turned out to be the right move. Sure, Brown won a Super Bowl, but he was part of a team effort in Tampa Bay that also featured the talents of Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Rob Gronkowski, Ronald Jones, Leonard Fournette…and, of course, the immortal Tom Brady.
But perhaps that’s what the Jets need: established talent in the skill position as they attempt to open a new, lasting era under center.
Even with the lack of early returns in the win column, it’s hard to quarrel with the Jets’ offseason yields. For a team that went 2-14 the year before, a spring haul of Corey Davis, Keelan Cole, and draft pick Elijah Moore (not to mention retaining Jamison Crowder on a far more affordable deal) was like winning the gridiron lottery.
Each was armed with something to prove. Davis, for example, was serviceable in Nashville after entering as 2017’s fifth overall draft pick, but that didn’t stop the Tennessee Titans from adding Julio Jones to work next to A.J. Brown. Some were surprised to see Moore drop to the second round of the draft. But the Jets were still lacking a proven, established No. 1 target, and that’s haunted the early stages of the Zach Wilson era so far. There’s a strong possibility one of their current representatives can become a top target in due time, but that doesn’t do them any good in the immediate future.
That’s where Beckham can help.
Bringing Beckham back to New Jersey…and the off-the-field extracurriculars and recreation attached to it and neighboring New York City…comes with its precautions. But from an on-field perspective, the Jets could use someone with his acumen. The lack of a consistent, established big-play talent has been one of the Jets’ long-tenured issues: they haven’t had a receiver hit four digits since Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker’s tandem season in the thousands back in 2015. Not only is that an eternity in football years but it should be downright impossible for a team in today’s NFL, one that worships a fantasy football deity, to not feature a 1,000-yard season. Robby Anderson might’ve been the one to break the spell but repping the Jets proved outright depressing and guided him toward Carolina.
Further assisting the Jets’ cause in a trade for Beckham, or another high-ticket deadline option, is the fact they have the capital for such deals. Parting with one of the firsts is obviously out of the question, but the Jets own eight total picks over the first four rounds of next spring’s draft. Adding a veteran asset like Ty Johnson or Denzel Mims…serviceable options who are buried on the offensive depth chart for different reasons…or Marcus Maye…whose support staff has made their interest in the trade deadline no secret…could help sweeten the pot.
A doable deal for Beckham could help Wilson take the next step of his development and could even hit the fast-forward button toward it. The next question, however, is whether Beckham even would accept such a deal. He himself admitted that his “ultimate goal” is to win a Super Bowl (the disastrous, post-boat trip, visit to Green Bay in the 2016-17 NFC Wild Card playoffs is his lone postseason contest to date) and no one needs to update the Jets’ gargantuan distance from the Big Game. What he could truly use is a nice, peaceful, quiet place to hit reset on his career from a personal perspective. Beckham’s endeavors on and off the field…and the media extravaganza that often follows…don’t afford him such a luxury, but moving on to a team that’s not-as-burdened with expectations could afford him the closest thing.
Having said all that, it’s perhaps the Jets once again watch the transactional proceedings involving a star player from the side. No matter how they play the Beckham situation, it’s going to create some unwanted fanfare. Beckham is more likely to get his wish of being sent to a contender while the Jets themselves are better off developing their young aerial talent (the time, thought, and energy around a deal for Beckham is likely better spent trying to find a role for the explosive Mims).
But, provided it doesn’t derail the rest of this chapter…one armed with hope, maturation, and development despite negative early returns…the idea of Beckham joining the Jets shouldn’t be automatically erased and laughed at.
After all, at this point, what’s there to lose…for either side?
Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags