Will the cost of care and feeding for Odell Beckham Jr. offset the potential benefit of having him be part of your offense?
That’s what the rest of the NFL is currently weighing as the once-brilliant wide receiver edges toward an exit from the Cleveland Browns. This will be the second team Beckham’s succeeded in alienating to the point of no return.
He left the Giants as a “real pain in the ass.” He’s lived up to that in Cleveland.
Would, should, could the Patriots want to invite pain for their own posterior? What possible benefit could he bring?
Skillset. Even though Beckham’s production level is fairly meager -- 34 targets, 17 catches for 232 yards in six games as he returns from a blown ACL -- he’s got a certain skill the Patriots are lacking in the post-Edelman era: superior interior quickness.
A couple of examples from Sunday’s game against the Chargers. In the second quarter, Kendrick Bourne ran a "whip route" at the goal line, which is a pattern with a two-step start, a turn and step to the inside then a sudden change and a little leverage to get outside.
It’s a route Edelman excelled at (his late TD in SB49 being a good example of the play) with his thicker body type, physicality and ridiculously quick feet. Bourne was a little unsteady coming out of his break and the play was missed by Mac Jones, who threw high.
In the fourth, when the Patriots went for two, they tried a similar route with Bourne on the left side. He couldn’t shake free and Jones found Jakobi Meyers for the conversion.
Cherry-picking, I know. But the bigger point is that those are bread-and-butter, red-zone plays on which the receiver needs to create space quickly. That’s not a strength of Bourne that we’ve seen and it’s not a strength of Meyers. If it were, the Patriots' steadiest and most productive receiver would probably have a touchdown by now.
Both Meyers (6-foot-2, 200 pounds) and Bourne (6-foot-1, 201 pounds) are a little on the tall and angular side. Generally, the best interior receivers are a little more stout. They aren’t 40 fast -- Bourne ran a 4.68, Meyers a 4.63 -- and while Bourne had an excellent three-cone at the NFL Combine, Meyers’ time was a more pedestrian 7.07 and his short-shuttle was 4.23.
Edelman’s three-cone was 6.62 and his short shuttle was 3.92. He checked in at 5-foot-10, 198 pounds.
Beckham checks in at 5-foot-10, 198. He’s a tremendously physical player as a blocker and receiver. His 3-cone was 6.69, his short shuttle 3.94. Whether those numbers are there post ACL? Dunno. But he’s got it in him. And he has been productive in the slot in the past.
The question, of course, becomes whether or not the Patriots want to invite Beckham into their offensive huddle. You could add just about anyone to the offense when Tom Brady was here and know that the chemistry would remain intact out of deference to Brady’s experience, accomplishments and leadership style.
Jones is a terrific leader, but does he have it in him to tell someone to STFU if necessary? Especially someone like OBJ, who either hasn’t heard that enough since getting to the league or hasn’t paid it any mind? OBJ chipped away at the leadership of Baker Mayfield in Cleveland and now that the Browns are 4-4 and in a precarious spot, OBJ has upped the ante even more. Because he wants what’s best for him.
Of course, Bill Belichick would be the one making the decision and I’d expect any conversation with Beckham would revolve around Beckham not being what he’s been most of his career -- a handful and ultimately a player teams would rather do without.
It’s a conversation Belichick’s successfully carried out before. So if the price is right (the Patriots have about $2.5M in available cap space, according to cap guru Miguel Benzan) and Beckham’s interested in polishing his reputation for a playoff contender, what’s not to like?
Other than the likelihood the Patriots' posterior could potentially be the next one to feel the pain of employing OBJ?