All things considered, Odell Beckham Jr. landed in as good a situation as possible by signing with the Rams.
And it turns out it was an even better deal than the Rams could have imagined.
Days after forcing his release from the Browns in his second NFL divorce — the first being his trade by the Giants to Cleveland in 2019 — Beckham signed a one-year deal with the Rams. In the end, he not only got his freedom but gets to play for a team with legitimate Super Bowl aspirations.
Now the question remains: Will Beckham finally be content with his role in Los Angeles?
He is in an offense that relies more heavily on the passing game than most, and it took only hours for the Rams to realize Beckham’s presence was even more important. Cooper Kupp is having an historic season, but No. 2 receiver Robert Woods suffered a torn ACL on Friday shortly after Beckham arrived. So the former Giants star will be an even bigger factor than he or the Rams could have imagined.
Look for Beckham to be on his best behavior. After all, he is playing for relative peanuts — just $1.25 million in salary and bonus, excluding incentives. Why is that important? Because he is not only playing for this season but next year and beyond. He needs to make a good impression to secure a more lucrative deal in free agency next year, and if he acts up and acts out the way he did too often with the Giants and the Browns, his value will plummet.
In fact, Beckham’s worth already has dropped, as evidenced by the fact that no team stepped up with a big-money contract once the Browns released him.
At age 29, he is well past his prime, and the only way he will become attractive to teams in 2022 is if he recaptures at least some of the excellence he once showed and is a good teammate.
He simply can’t get away with any of the me-first behavior that alienated him from the Giants and Browns.
While it will always be about Beckham at some level, we’ve seen him at his best when he lets his play on the field do the talking. My sense is that will be the case in his time with the Rams, however long that lasts and however far that takes a team that has loaded up for a Super Bowl run.
OK, there really is no halfway mark in a 17-game season, but now that we’re more than nine weeks in, time to honor the best of the best.
MVP: Tom Brady, QB, Bucs. There’s not much left to say about a 44-year-old who has done it all like no one before . . . and continues to play at an extraordinarily high level. With 25 touchdown passes and five interceptions, he is as close to perfect as there is. Incredible.
Coach: Kliff Kingsbury, Cardinals: How big a risk did Cardinals owner Michael Bidwill and GM Steve Keim take in hiring Kingsbury? Well, the guy had a sub-.500 record in college and his "Air Raid" offense was thought to be unworkable in the NFL. How’d that work out? The Cardinals (8-1) have the best record in football, and Kingsbury’s cutting-edge offense is the envy of the NFL.
Comeback Player of the Year: Dak Prescott, QB, Cowboys. A devastating ankle injury ended his season — and the Cowboys’ chances — in 2020, but Prescott has returned to play some of the best football of his career and help make Dallas a legitimate Super Bowl contender.
Offensive rookie: Ja’Marr Chase, WR, Bengals. In a terrific rookie class of receivers, he has emerged as the most impactful. The Bengals wisely added Joe Burrow’s former LSU teammate to an offense that needs as many playmakers as possible.
Defensive rookie: Micah Parsons, LB, Cowboys: Parsons studies the game as hard as he plays it. That’s saying something, considering how well he has adapted to the NFL level. Add in his special leadership qualities, and Dallas has a terrific addition to a defense that was desperate for an upgrade.
Offensive player: Kyler Murray, QB, Cardinals: Murray has taken a gigantic step forward in his NFL development, to the point that the Cardinals have come from out of nowhere to jump into the Super Bowl contender stratosphere.
Defensive player: Myles Garrett, DE, Browns. The former No. 1 overall pick is having a career year with an NFL-high 12 sacks, a cornerstone player for a defense that might be as good as there is in the NFL.
Did Miami solve Jackson?
In a year filled with upsets, not many were bigger than the Dolphins’ shocking 22-10 win over the Ravens on Thursday. Not only did previously woeful Miami shock a Super Bowl contender, but the way it did it might provide a blueprint for other teams in dealing with MVP-caliber quarterback Lamar Jackson.
It has been an extraordinarily productive year for Jackson, who has engineered comeback wins over Kansas City, Indianapolis and Minnesota, but he was ineffective through most of Thursday’s game, and one of the reasons was the way Miami coach Brian Flores schemed against him.
Consider: Jackson faced more blitzes against the Dolphins (24) than any other quarterback since 2015, according to ESPN. And the 10 points the Ravens scored were the lowest in Jackson’s time in Baltimore.
In a copycat league, rest assured opposing defensive coordinators have taken note and will try to do the same.
Cam goes home
Love the fact that Cam Newton found a home — again — with the Panthers, who drafted him first overall in 2011.
Even though he’s not the same quarterback at 32 that he was during his MVP season in 2015, when he led the Panthers to the Super Bowl, he’s in a perfect spot after his preseason release from New England.
It’s a perfect reunion for Newton and for the Panthers. They needed help at quarterback after Sam Darnold went down with a fractured bone in his shoulder that will keep him out at least four weeks. And Newton believes he has enough left to keep them competitive.
"This ain’t no ploy," he told reporters. "This ain’t about ticket sales or a Cinderella story. I’m here to win football games."
It’s Wilson-Rogers after all
When Russell Wilson fractured the middle finger on his right hand in an Oct. 8 loss to the Rams, an injury that required surgery, doctors told him he’d be out as long as eight weeks.
But Wilson cut that timeline nearly in half, and he’ll return in Sunday’s game against the Packers. Which might be just in time to save the Seahawks (3-5), who are in last place in the NFC West.
"I never lost confidence in where I was going to go and how it’s going to get done," he said. "Throughout the whole process, I kind of knew in my head. This is where my goal is."
Until he was injured while getting his hand stuck in Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald’s helmet, Wilson had never missed a game in his career, which began in 2012. That’s a string of 149 straight starts.
"I feel great," he said. "I feel really close. I’m not 100% yet, but I’m pretty dang close."
Aaron Rodgers will return for host Green Bay after missing last week’s game against Kansas City because of COVID-19. Rodgers created a firestorm after revealing that he hadn’t been vaccinated when he used the misleading term "immunized" to describe his status in August. He apologized for using that word and failing to divulge that he wasn’t vaccinated, and he’ll face reporters’ questions for the first time since returning to the team.
Gruden’s next move
Former Raiders coach Jon Gruden has sued the NFL and commissioner Roger Goodell, charging that Goodell purposely attempted to destroy his reputation and force him into resigning as the coach. Gruden resigned after emails using racist, homophobic, and misogynistic language were published last month in The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times.
Gruden charges that the league released the emails, which Goodell and other league officials have consistently denied.
Angry that Bears linebacker Cassius Marsh was penalized for taunting after his fourth-quarter sack of Ben Roethlisberger in a Monday night game? Well, the NFL isn’t apologizing. In fact, the league not only supported referee Tony Corrente’s initial call, which penalized Marsh after he walked toward the Steelers’ sideline and glared, but fined Marsh $5,972 for unsportsmanlike conduct. The NFL has made taunting a point of emphasis this season, and Monday’s call was easily the most controversial of all. It’s also a warning that the league will continue to penalize similar incidents . . . How far back in history does Bill Belichick go for advice in how to beat an opponent? Centuries. Belichick on Friday quoted ancient Chinese general Sun Tzu, who is credited with publishing "The Art of War" in the fifth century B.C. "I think if you want to go far enough, look at Sun Tzu," he said in reflecting on how the Patriots change their strategy based on their opponent. "Look at the great generals. You exploit your strengths and attack weaknesses. That’s about as fundamental as it gets." . . . Stat to note: The Titans have the longest current winning streak (five), and their past four have come against 2020 playoff teams (Buffalo, Kansas City, Indianapolis and the Rams). Each of the three previous teams to win four in a row against teams that made the playoffs the year before have gone to the Super Bowl: the Patriots in 2011, the Packers in 2010 and the Saints in 2009. On Sunday, the Titans will host the Saints, who will be without star running back Alvin Kamara (knee). They’re already without quarterback Jameis Winston, who is out for the year with a torn ACL . . . With the Titans’ Derrick Henry out for perhaps the rest of the season with a foot injury, the Colts’ Jonathan Taylor has emerged as arguably the league’s best all-around back. He has 1,114 scrimmage yards and has run for at least 100 yards and a touchdown in each of his last six games . . . Steelers star pass rusher T.J. Watt, the younger brother of injured Cardinals defensive lineman J.J. Watt, has 61 sacks in 69 career games. With at least one sack against the Lions on Sunday, he’ll surpass his brother and Hall of Famer Derrick Thomas for the second-most sacks in his first 70 games. Hall of Famer Reggie White had 79 sacks in his first 70 games with the Eagles.