The aspirations of Odell Beckham Jr. to be the highest-paid player in the NFL will trigger this reaction: That’s nice, but it’s not realistic.
But after considering how Beckham could, on a year-to-year basis, become the highest paid player in the league, maybe the best move would be to make him the league’s highest paid player now.
Currently signed for two more years under his rookie deal, Beckham is on the books for $1.839 million in 2017 and $8.459 million in 2018. Come 2019, he’d be eligible for the franchise tag. For receivers, the 2017 tag landed at $15.682 million. Assuming eight-percent increases for the next two years, the receiver franchise would be $18.28 million in 2019.
By rule (20 percent raise), the amount would move to $21.93 million in 2020. Come 2021, Beckham would get a 44-percent raise ($31.58 million) or the quarterback franchise tag, whichever is greater.
Depending on where the market at the quarterback position goes over the next four years (and whether other stars opt to go year-to-year under the franchise tag), $31.58 million could make Beckham the highest paid player in football. His better chance would come in 2022, when he’d either hit the open market unfettered or, if a fourth franchise tag is even available, receiver $45.48 million for 2022.
Let’s assume the Giants decide come 2022 not to invest that much money in a non-quarterback. If he’s on the open market, does a 29-year-old Beckham get the biggest deal any player ever has?
Maybe. While some owners will evaluate Beckham based only on football abilities, there surely will be some who throw money at Beckham for the value he brings, both in dollars and cents and by instantly making the team name and logo into national brands.
Given how expensive it could become for the Giants on a year-to-year basis over the next six seasons, the best move for the Giants could be to give Beckham a four-year extension right now, with a new-money average of $25.1 million. That would allow him to call himself the highest-paid player in the league, and it would require a total payout of only (only?) $110.698 million over six years.
On a year-to-year basis, the Giants would pay Beckham at least $127.568 million over the next six years. So they could save $17 million, give the player significant security, and buy the peace that comes from having a key player be happy and satisfied by moving quickly, before the high-water mark in new money moves above $25 million per year.
They also could structure the long-term offer to be guaranteed for three years, with the team having the option to cut him or squeeze him to take less on the back end. If his motivation is to be the highest-paid player in football, maybe he’d agree to terms of that type — like most other players routinely do — since he would still be able to say he’s the highest paid player in football.
Until, of course, someone else is making more than $25.1 million per year. Which will happen, sooner than later.
Which is why the Giants should maybe move now to give Beckham what he wants in a way that gives the team what it needs, especially in light of the pitfalls of letting Beckham play on a year-to-year basis.