Rumors have swirled for months: could the New York Giants actually trade Odell Beckham Jr? Despite general manager David Gettleman denying the possibility of trading the wide receiver, the NFL world was shocked on Wednesday evening as OBJ was traded to the Cleveland Browns.
The headline read like a meme. An early April Fool’s Day joke perhaps? The Browns turned heads with a 7-8-1 season last year, but in terms of overall prestige, you couldn’t name two franchises further apart than the New York Giants and Cleveland Browns.
But that’s on prestige and history alone, as the trade signals a turning point and perhaps even passing of the baton in the NFL. The Giants, now seven seasons removed from their last Super Bowl victory, have been the second-worst team in the NFL over the past two years, second to only.. the Browns.
Could the Giants be the new Browns?
Hopefully not, with Saquon Barkley under team control, two first round picks this year, and safety Jabril Peppers acquired in the trade. But how many years did the Browns draft high in the first round before something finally clicked? The New York Giants are at a turning point in franchise history. The current NFL landscape could allow the Giants to quickly stockpile young talent and compete almost immediately.
On the other hand, poor coaching, roster decisions, and draft picks that has plagued the team for most of the past decade could continue to stop the team from achieving expectations. If the Giants regress and win less than five games in the 2019-2020 season, things could go from bad to ugly in New York.
The Cleveland Browns: NFL’s Must-Watch Team in 2019
Didn’t think you’d ever hear that after years and years and seasons upon seasons of misfortune, did you?
Baker Mayfield took the league by storm last year, breaking the rookie passing touchdown record without even starting games until October. Nick Chubb, a 23-year old running back out of Georgia, had a monster season on the ground to complement Mayfield’s aerial attack. 26-year old Jarvis Landry had nearly 1,000 yards in his first season with the Browns.
And now the offense adds Odell Beckham Jr, one of the most dynamic offensive players over the last 30 years in the NFL. His 44 touchdowns in 59 career games (0.75 touchdowns per game) is the fourth-most in NFL history through 60 games or less, trailing only Jerry Rice, Randy Moss, and Rob Gronkowski.
While the Giants went 8-24 over the last two seasons, they were still a spectacle to watch whenever Odell took the field.
This does bring one caveat: Beckham’s availability. Over the past 32 games, Beckham has played in 16, exactly half. The receiver has been prone to both major and chronic injures over the course of his career. Even being available only 50% of the time though, Odell was able to impact the Giants organization, build fan engagement, and even win a game here and there. If he plays in 75-100% of the games for the Browns, they’ll have won this trade by a landslide.
It’s a risk the Browns were willing to take. With other offensive weapons on the roster, going all-in with Odell Beckham elevates the Browns ceiling as a team drastically. But if things don’t work out, or Beckham is sidelined more than he’s on the field, Cleveland may be upset they have up two picks and a young safety.
On star power alone, Beckham will change the Cleveland Browns franchise. Baker Mayfield may be the quarterback, but OBJ is a superstar whose recognition transcends NFL fans. He’s a household name alongside the likes of Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers. His jersey might honestly break the North American jersey sales record that was just set when Bryce Harper signed with the Philadelphia Phillies.
Where do the Giants go from here?
I’ll say the record out loud again even though it hurts to hear: 8-24. The last two seasons of Giants football were a pain to watch, but for some crazy reason, fans were never ready to give up. Even at 1-7 last year, and again at 5-8, there were scenarios where the Giants could win the NFC East. New Yorkers are stubborn, and they weren’t ready to quit on the Giants because, on paper, they weren’t supposed to be that bad.
Odell Beckham played a huge role in that glimmer of hope. When he was on the field, he was a game-breaker that could change the outcome at any moment with a huge play. When he was sidelined with injuries, there was always the hope that his return would spark a winning streak.
The Giants have a solid young core with Saquon Barkley, Sterling Shepard, and Evan Engram, and will likely add more with their two first round draft picks. Barkley will likely become the new face of the franchise almost immediately, after an incredible Rookie of the Year season.
The biggest question remaining for New York is who will play quarterback for the next three to five years, while these players are achieving their prime and under team control. At this moment in time, Eli Manning is still the de facto starter and likely will be until the end of next season. With their two first round draft picks, the Giants could take their quarterback of the future, a year after being chastised by many for taking a running back at #2.
The move could pay off hugely, but only if the quarterback they take is a hit. The leading candidates are Kyler Murray, though the Heisman winner’s stock may be rising to a top-5 pick, and Ohio State standout Dwayne Haskins. Later in the first round with the Browns pick, Duke QB Daniel Jones could be another option.
The waiting list for Giants season tickets is still lengthy and elusive. But with management trading away a beloved franchise icon, could some fans turn sour on the franchise? Only time will tell, and if New York manages to put together at least a decent season, perhaps some pain could be alleviated.
But if the Giants sit near the bottom of the standings again, many fans will be very upset and point back to this day as a dark and gloomy one for the franchise.
Will Odell Continue Breaking Records?
Through 59 games, Odell has tallied 390 catches, 5,476 yards, and 44 touchdowns. If he keeps up this pace even for a few more seasons, he’ll be a lock for the Hall of Fame.
Will he be used as much in Cleveland? He was easily Eli Manning’s favorite target, and there’s no reason he can’t be that for Baker Mayfield. But perhaps the Browns offense will be more balanced, with Beckham’s best friend and college teammate Jarvis Landry on the other side.
Eli threw to Odell early and often, whether it was a designed play, or Manning chucking it deep for Beckham to make a signature athletic catch.
As long as Beckham stays healthy, I think he’ll continue his ascent among the all-time great wide receivers. But if he gets off to a shaky start, even in Year 1, it could hinder chemistry between him and Mayfield.
Mayfield took over the role of Cleveland sports star just months after LeBron James’ second departure from the city. But Odell Beckham Jr. can become the face of the franchise if his presence assists them in making the playoffs and maybe even winning an elusive Super Bowl.
This has been one my longer columns, so if you’ve read all the way through, thank you! Feel free to tweet me @SakSports to join the conversation on Odell Beckham Jr. Will he flourish in Cleveland? Fill the hole left by LeBron James? Will Giants fans ever recover from losing one of the best draft picks of all-time? Stay tuned as next season unfolds and be sure to follow Sak Sports Blog on Twitter.
Header Photo: USA Today via Giants Wire