Odell Beckham made a bold statement earlier this week that he wants to be the highest paid player in the NFL. On Saturday, he made the kind of statement on the first play of team drills that tells you he could at least come close.
Beckham lined up to the left of the formation, awaited the snap to Eli Manning, and then raced upfield. He ran a deep crossing route and was wide open when he caught Manning’s pass in stride and raced in for the touchdown. A crowd of several hundred people roared their approval from the bleachers.
It’s that kind of electrifying play — plus all those other spectacular moments during actual games, of course — that has Giants owner John Mara convinced that Beckham is deserving of a new deal at some point in the not-too-distant future. The fact that Beckham followed up that early-practice gem with two more nifty catches, one of them a diving reception near the sideline, only reinforced the notion that the Giants will have to eventually address their best player’s contract.
For now, it is a win-win situation on both sides.
Mara has assured the 24-year-old Beckham, whom the owner views as a generational player and one of the best in franchise history, that he will get his money — even if it’s not worth more than every other NFL player. And Beckham has decided not to protest the terms of his current deal, which call for him to make a salary of $1.8 million this year, which makes him the 43rd highest paid receiver in the league. Rather than hold out of training camp, he appears ready to play out the season if that’s what it takes and reach an agreement on a new deal down the road.
Though there is certainly risk on his part by continuing to play in an injury-laden sport, Beckham is apparently ready to wait until the time is right to strike a deal that will almost certainly make him the highest paid receiver in NFL history, if not the highest paid player.
All the great receivers in today’s game eventually get paid — Julio Jones, A.J. Green, Dez Bryant and Antonio Bryant are the latest examples — and Beckham’s time will come. But Mara is smart to bide his time. The owner needs to make sure that Beckham can keep his temper in check after a disturbing sequence of emotional outbursts both during and after games. Mara also needs to be mindful of the fact that re-signing a player with multiple years remaining on a contract can set a precedent that could lead other prominent players to demand similar treatment. He also needs to consider how a mega-deal for Beckham will impact the Giants’ ability to sign other key impending free agents, including center Weston Richburg and guard Justin Pugh.
As for Beckham, he has every right to try and get every last dime on a new contract, even if it may sound pretentious that he asks for more money than even the richest quarterbacks make. Professional athletes have a limited period in which to maximize their earnings, and no one should begrudge them in trying to get as much money for as long a period of time as they can.
“Odell is obviously the best player in the NFL,” fellow Giants receiver Brandon Marshall said Saturday. “He’s a rock star. He’s a global icon.”
Beckham surely knows he won’t get quarterback money on a new deal, but there’s no harm in suggesting it and thus raising the bar for other star non-quarterbacks like him. With the NBA’s free agent signing period resulting in monstrous deals, such as the $201 million max deal signed by Warriors star Stephen Curry, Celtics forward Gordon Hayward’s four-year, $128 million contract and Blake Griffin’s five-year, $173 million deal to stay with the Clippers, it’s only natural for elite NFL players to want more for themselves.
Think of it this way: Derrick Rose’s bargain basement salary of $2.1 million with the Cavaliers this year is still more than Beckham is due to make this season.
Mara has been outspoken on wanting to keep Beckham in a Giants uniform for the rest of his career, and Beckham wants the same. But there’s a price for everything, and the Giants will eventually have to pay up for the right to keep their star receiver.
The time isn’t right for a deal to happen, but there’s little doubt a deal WILL happen. As long as Beckham is willing to wait for the right time, and as long as Mara is willing to offer the right deal, Beckham will continue to make spectacular plays like the ones on Saturday.
And the ones on Sundays in the fall.