The good news: It appears Odell Beckham Jr. and the Giants can breathe a major sigh of relief after a brutal hit at the knees felled the star receiver in Monday night’s preseason game in Cleveland. Despite initial fears of a knee injury, it turned out to be a sprained ankle.
The sobering news: Despite avoiding a serious injury, the incident points to the inherent risks all football players face. That peril is magnified because Beckham is one of the most talented players on the planet, and his presence is essential if the Giants are to realize their Super Bowl dreams this season.
Coach Ben McAdoo didn’t provide much in the way of a medical follow-up Tuesday, saying Beckham “has an ankle” and is “going through treatment.” Beckham said after the game that he felt like it was a sprain, and seemed optimistic he’d be OK.
It is an especially delicate time for Beckham to face the injury risk, because he’s going into the fourth year of a contract paying only $1.8 million this season. Now, that may seem like plenty for most people — and it is — but Beckham may be the most underpaid player in the NFL based on ability. He’s a top-five receiver, but he’s not even in the top 40 when it comes to salary.
So he’s taking a calculated gamble that he can get through this season and get in position for a huge payday when the Giants negotiate a new deal before his fifth-year option kicks in next season. There’s no question that team owner John Mara is willing to pay Beckham, but given most teams’ reluctance to re-do contracts with two years remaining, Mara may be more inclined to wait until after the season to give Beckham a deal in the $20 million-a-year range.
If that’s the case, Beckham must avoid an injury that would throw a new deal into question, and he may be considering an insurance policy to guard against that. According to Yahoo Sports, he’s considering a policy worth up to $100 million — or close to the potential value of a new deal.
But it won’t come cheap.
“A $100-million policy is not reasonable,” said Richard Salgado, a leading disability and life insurance agent for professional athletes. “Even 50 million. If he wanted that, yes, I could provide that, but it would cost him almost half a million dollars. I find it very hard to believe that Odell is going to write a check for that kind of money. It’s available, but it’s a very pricey amount of insurance.”
Salgado has been insuring pro athletes for nearly 25 years, and the largest policy he has written was for $25 million in 2008. He declined to name the player for confidentiality reasons.
“No one is putting out $100 million,” he said.
Salgado said only one among hundreds of his NFL clients has ever cashed in on a policy for career-ending insurance. The other was an NHL player.
Even if Beckham did suffer a season-ending injury before getting a new contract, he still might not be able to collect on a career-ending policy if he is medically cleared to resume playing.
“It would have to be because your career is ruined, that you’re not able to play anymore,” Salgado said. “If a player suffers an injury and he can still play, even if he wants to collect the money on the insurance policy, he has to be checked out. If it’s deemed medically that he can play, you’d have a fight on your hands.”
Salgado, owner of Coastal Advisors LLC, said Beckham can also purchase what’s called a “loss of value” policy as a hedge against injury. It’s a less expensive policy than career-ending insurance, and provides benefits to a player in the event an injury leads to reduced compensation on a new contract.
Salgado’s advice to Beckham?
“It’s how comfortable are you writing a check that’s extremely large,” he said. “Not everybody is comfortable doing that. It’s about being able to sleep at night and knowing that, God forbid, at least I have something if I can’t play anymore.”
It is a dangerous game of risk-reward, and Beckham is left to ponder his options after a nasty collision in a meaningless game. The encouraging prognosis — for now, anyway — is that he wasn’t hurt as seriously as he might have been.
He can only hope that remains the case, especially until he can cash in with a new contract.