There is a tenuous peace that now exists between Odell Beckham Jr. and the Giants, a calm that has replaced the frantic speculation about a potential trade less than three months ago after John Mara voiced public frustration with his star receiver’s behavior.
There even is a chance Beckham makes his first appearance in team drills since suffering a season-ending ankle injury in Week 5 last season. Given the tsunami of conjecture about the Giants’ willingness to deal Beckham, it’s a stunning turnabout.
There still is much that needs to be resolved before the recent détente will translate into a full-blown treaty. As in a signed contract extension for a player whose athletic talents warrant a lucrative deal, but whose on-field temper and off-field choices remain serious impediments to a long-term resolution.
Coach Pat Shurmur said Monday after an organized team activity that Beckham’s physical progress has been steady and that it’s possible he’ll be cleared for next week’s mandatory minicamp.
“We’ll visit how he is doing and put him out there and give him a little bit more as we go,” Shurmur said.
Beckham was again a no-show for Monday’s voluntary practice, although he made what was considered by the team to be a good-faith effort by participating in the first week of OTAs.
Even Mara, who was fuming at the NFL owners’ meetings in late March after a seven-second video surfaced showing Beckham partying with a woman in a Paris hotel, has dialed back his emotions about the receiver and his future with the team.
“It’s not the first contract negotiation we’ve ever had,” Mara said last month. “It will get done when it’s supposed to get done.”
But it is still a long way from here to a long-term extension, and unless or until a deal is signed, uncertainty remains the operative word.
In one sense, the Giants have significant leverage on Beckham since he is still under contract for $8.5 million in 2018. But with a gigantic payday on the horizon, Beckham must seriously consider whether he wants to jeopardize his long-term future by playing on the final year of his deal. Yes, that’s a ton of money to forego. And yes, he risks tremendous fan backlash by drawing a contractual line in the sand.
He has given no indication that this will be a hard-line negotiation involving a holdout. Beckham is expected to show up next week and not incur fines. But the longer the wait is until a new deal, the more chance he changes his mind once training camp starts in July.
Holdouts are rare in the NFL these days, but it wasn’t all that long ago when most key players staged at least some form of protest over contracts. Darrelle Revis, Chris Johnson, Lawrence Taylor, Phil Simms, Joe Morris, Emmitt Smith and Bo Jackson held out in financial disputes. John Riggins once skipped an entire season with the Redskins over a contract.
There’s no telling whether Beckham will engage in such a tactic, but withholding his services is his most useful weapon to try and force a deal. And if the Giants do believe that he fits into their long-term plans, then they must seriously engage in meaningful discussions about an extension. After all, the stakes only get higher if they kick the Beckham contract down the road and count on a new deal next year, because NFL contract inflation is a very real phenomenon.
Besides, there already is at least a framework on which to work a new deal. The Bucs recently extended 2014 first-round receiver Mike Evans with a five-year, $82.5-million contract. And the Browns gave another of Beckham’s fellow Class of 2014 receivers — his good friend Jarvis Landry — a five-year, $75-million deal.
Beckham believes he ought to be paid as much as the highest-paid quarterbacks in the game, but it’s silly to think he’s worth that much. Based off the parameters of the Evans and Landry deals — and the fact that Steelers’ All-Pro receiver Antonio Brown makes $17 million a year — there has to be a number that will work for both sides.
It may not be as much as Beckham is hoping to make, and it might be more than the Giants want to give. But somewhere in the middle lies a compromise that will allow the Giants to keep their most gifted player for the long haul.