Giants president and CEO John Mara talks to the media...

Giants president and CEO John Mara talks to the media during training camp on July 26, 2017. Credit: Brad Penner

The Giants are ready to start talking contract with Odell Beckham Jr.

After months of speculation and conversation about the star receiver’s business status as he enters the final season of his rookie deal while coming off ankle surgery, team co-owner John Mara said on Thursday that the Giants have decided they will begin direct negotiations with Beckham’s agents ”sooner rather than later.”

In reality, those negotiations have been taking place for a while. Just not face-to-face.

Everything from Beckham’s appearances in viral videos (both flattering and unflattering) to the Giants’ dangling of Beckham for a potential trade during the offseason has brought them to this point. You’d need Waze to negotiate the route from the last time Mara spoke extensively about Beckham, saying at the league meetings in March that he was weary of Beckham’s antics and having to answer questions about him, to Thursday when, before the team took the field for its first practice of training camp, Mara said without caveat or hesitation that he wants Beckham “to be a Giant for a long time.”

Yes, the relative quiet and good behavior from Beckham between those two comments played a large role in the Giants’ willingness to come to the negotiating table.

“I think Odell personally is moving in the right direction,” Mara said. “I think he’s come in here with a good attitude. He showed up [Wednesday to report to camp] with a smile on his face… It certainly had an effect on our desire to start negotiating. He’s had the right attitude all along.”

And yes, the Giants know that it will take a very large contract, perhaps one that will make Beckham the highest-paid receiver in NFL history, to keep him around. Beckham is due to earn $8.459 million this season under his current contract. The total amount of the new one likely will pay him more than 10 times that.

Saquon Barkley, Eli Manning and Odell Beckham Jr. practice on Day 2 of training camp.  Credit: Newsday / Tom Rock

“We think we know what it will take to sign him,” Mara said. “Hopefully we’ll come to an agreement.”

Beckham was on the field with the Giants later in the day for the opening practice of camp. He participated in about half of the reps with the starting team in 11-on-11 drills. He worked mostly out of the slot and caught a handful of passes from Eli Manning. He seemed to be running at full speed without limitation.

After practice, Manning and Beckham teamed up to iron out a few of their routes. With the rest of the squad in the locker room, the two went through a half dozen plays alone on the field.

Thursday was Beckham’s first practice reps with the full team since October, but not the first time he’s been with teammates. He was part of a gaggle of Giants who got together in California in recent weeks for offseason workouts. There, those in attendance said, he looked phenomenal.

“Honestly, when I was out there watching him, he looked so much more explosive to me,” wide receiver Sterling Shepard said. “He’s just hungry. You can see that in his game and the way he trained. He’s always trained super hard, but training with him this time, he was a different animal. Something in him was just hungry. He’s ready to get out there and just prove to everybody that he still has it. You guys see the Instagram videos, it’s crazy, but to see it first hand? Wow.”

There wasn’t much wow on Thursday as Beckham was solid but not spectacular. Head coach Pat Shurmur said he wants to be “smart” with Beckham and said he and the training staff have a plan for Beckham’s participation in camp and in preseason games. How much that jives with Beckham’s plans is unclear. It would be foolish for either side at this point to expose him to unnecessary risks in the form of live contact with defenders.

Mara said he isn’t very interested in what Beckham does on the field for the next month and a half.

“I’m going to leave that to Coach Shurmur and our medical staff and Odell to work that out,” he said. “I just want him to be ready for Jacksonville.”

And, now we know, for many years beyond as well.

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