The Giants and OBJ begin anew after his trade to the Browns

Jaime C. Harris | 3/14/2019, 11:35 a.m.
A little over two weeks ago, New York Giants general manager Dave Gettleman had this to say about wide receiver ...
Odell Beckham Jr will now be known as an ex-New York Giant after the franchise traded him to the Cleveland Browns on Tuesday. Bill Moore photo

A little over two weeks ago, New York Giants general manager Dave Gettleman had this to say about wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. when questioned by the media regarding rumors the team was open to dealing him. “We didn’t sign Odell to trade him,” responded Gettleman. “That’s all I need to say about that.”

Tuesday, March 12, the franchise’s actions dramatically contradicted his declaration. The Giants traded their heretofore star to the Cleveland Browns for first- and third-round picks, as well as 23-year-old safety Jabril Peppers, who will be returning home after growing up in East Orange, N.J., before becoming an All-American at the University of Michigan.

No matter how Gettleman and Giants ownership spins the trade, it signals that they are in absolute transition and reshaping the team. The 26-year-old Beckham, the most gifted and prolific receiver in Giants history, signed a five-year, $90 million contract extension last August.

The No. 14 overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft by the Giants, Beckham had a decline in production from 4,122 yards receiving and 35 touchdowns in 43 games his first three seasons to 1,354 yards and 9 touchdowns in 16 games the past two, as a result of injuries that limited him to only four games in the 2017 season and just 124 targets in 12 games last season, down from 158 in 2015 and 169 in 2016.

Inconsistent play by quarterback Eli Manning was also a major factor in Beckham’s statistical reduction. Numbers aside, he remains one of the best and most explosive offensive weapons in football as his scrimmage yards per touch average in 2018 was 13.1, only slightly below his career average of 13.7.

He will be joining a Browns offense that includes wide receiver Jarvis Landry, one of the top pass catchers in the sport who is Beckham’s good friend and college teammate at LSU, dynamic running back Kareem Hunt, who was signed by the Browns this winter after being cut by the Kansas City Chiefs last November when video surfaced of him assaulting a woman, and promising young quarterback Baker Mayfield.

During his time as a Giant, the New Orleans product became one of the most recognizable and arguably polarizing figures in sports. Beckham is in large part responsible for the hyperbolic perception of him being a diva and drama king, a perception heightened by the media.

But he strategically leveraged the publicity and notoriety to become a highly popular cultural personality transcending football and gaining extensive endorsement opportunities, including signing a lucrative apparel deal with Nike in May of 2017 for a reported $25 million over five years, making it the richest ever given to an NFL player.

He exits a Giants team that was 5-11 a season ago, has missed the playoffs six out of the past seven seasons, and has the 38-year-old Manning, the incumbent starting QB, well past his prime, entering the final year of his contract. It is a team that today is without a clear identity.

Second-year running back Saquon Barkley is a unique talent who will be asked to shoulder the bulk of the offensive load behind a retooled but undetermined offensive line. The defense was terrible by season’s end with little tangible improvements this off-season to speak of.

It’s only March and the April 25-27 NFL Draft is still over a month away. Yet six months ahead of the start of the season, the Giants have engendered little optimism in their fan base.