What I’m Hearing: USA TODAY Sports’ Mike Jones has the details of the Odell Beckham Jr. trade and how Cleveland could now have the one of the AFC’s best offenses.
USA TODAY Sports
Talk about feeling dangerous, Baker Mayfield.
The Cleveland Browns have pulled off the stunner of the week by giving their young quarterback one of the most dynamic weapons in the game as they agreed to acquire three-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. from the New York Giants.
Cleveland forked over a first-round pick (No. 17 overall), a third rounder and safety Jabrill Peppers in exchange for Beckham, two people with knowledge of the situation confirmed to USA TODAY Sports. They spoke on condition of anonymity because the deal can not become official until Wednesday afternoon.
Tuesday night’s move continues a string of aggressive actions executed by Browns general manager John Dorsey since he began his reclamation project of the long-suffering franchise last offseason. This time last year, Dorsey acquired wide receiver Jarvis Landry from the Miami Dolphins and signed him to a five-year, $75-million contract with $47 million guaranteed. Dorsey pulled off two additional trades and signed eight impact players in free agency before drafting Mayfield first overall and cornerback Denzel Ward at No. 4 to lay the foundation for a 7-8-1 campaign – the most successful for a Browns franchise that had won a combined four games in the three previous seasons.
But that wasn’t enough.
Dorsey has picked up where he left off, determined to give first-year head coach Freddie Kitchens the most potent roster possible.
People around the league anticipated another aggressive offseason for Dorsey and the Browns, in part due to the GM’s track record last season and the fact that Cleveland entered this week with roughly $70 million in salary cap space. Those predictions proved prescient. Last month, Cleveland signed running back Kareem Hunt (who remains on the commissioner’s exempt list as he waits the outcome from a league investigation into potential violations of the personal conduct plicy). In the last week, the Browns added pass rusher Olivier Vernon and defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson.
But a move like this? Very few – if anyone – around the league could have anticipated this.
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It never seemed very likely that the Giants would actually part with Beckham, although his discontentment with the franchise was no secret despite his signing of a five-year, $90 million contract extension that featured $65 million in guaranteed money last August. Beckham’s new average salary of $18 million made him the highest-paid wideout in the game. As the losses mounted in New York last season, and as Eli Manning’s effectiveness waned, Beckham publicly criticized the quarterback and his coaches.
Rumors of a potential Beckham departure from New York had popped up here and there this offseason. But just two weeks ago at the NFL scouting combine, when asked about the receiver’s status with the team, general manager Dave Gettleman seemed to squash such talk when he said, “We didn’t sign him to trade him, OK?”
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That statement didn’t even stand true for a month. And so continues a bizarre period of time for a Giants franchise mired in dysfunction.
Gettleman sent OBJ packing after paying him $21.5 million for 12 games, and the Giants will absorb another $16 million in dead cap money. Multiple teams had inquired about Beckham’s availability, according to people familiar with the situation, and the haul offered by the Browns obviously proved sufficient.
Beckham was even stunned himself to learn of the trade Tuesday night, according to NFL Network’s Kim Jones. But he will get over that shock quickly. He’s joining his former LSU teammate and close friend Landry to form an explosive tandem for Mayfield – one of the most promising young stars in the league.
Beckham is known for his supreme talent, but in recent years, he also has become infamous for his volatile ways. However, now paired with Landry and hitched to a quarterback with potential and swagger in Mayfield, Beckham should be able to rediscover his smile and ability to focus entirely on torching defensive backs.
The Browns most likely aren’t finished shopping in free agency, but even as their roster currently stands, they have a real shot at taking over as the favorites to win the AFC North, which also would make them a threat to return to the playoffs for the first time since 2002. The Browns, according to FanDuel, entered the offseason with 40/1 odds to win the Super Bowl, and now after acquiring Beckham, those odds have improved to 17/1.
The games, of course, are played on the field, and talented rosters don’t always yield successful campaigns. But the Browns have an energy about them that started to develop with the hiring of Dorsey a little more than a year ago. It continued to build upon the arrival of the infectiously confident Mayfield and only further mounted as they responded to the firing of coach Hue Jackson by winning five of their last seven games last season.
The losing mentality has been shed. The joke of a roster is a thing of the past. There’s a legitimate belief among the Browns’ player ranks that they belong to a squad that can achieve something truly special.
Can you blame them?
Follow Mike Jones on Twitter @ByMikeJones.