The New York Football Giants, a bedrock NFL franchise, have negotiated thousands of player contracts over the decades. Giants receiver Odell Beckham Jr., who received a slotted rookie deal in 2014, has negotiated as a practical matter none. And the Giants surely have been banking on that imbalance in lowballing Beckham.
That’s why Beckham needs to hold out of training camp. It’s his only real leverage and, given his other options to force the Giants to pay Beckham what he deserves, it’s his only real choice.
If he shows up as a show of good faith and talks go nowhere, he can’t leave. Well, he can leave. But the Giants would hold all the cards.
A player who reports and then departs opens the door for the so-called “five-day letter,” which advises the player that if he doesn’t return within (wait for it) five days, the team can then put him on the reserve/left squad list, shutting down his season and tolling his contract for a full year.
In Beckham’s case, this would mean he’ll still be working under the fifth-year option — and he’ll still be a full season from free agency or the franchise tag — in 2019.
Beckham also could try to “hold in,” which in his case would entail showing up but refusing to practice until he has a contract. That position quickly would amount to conduct detrimental to the team, exposing him to fines and suspensions and other problems somewhat akin to what Terrell Owens experienced in Philadelphia 13 years ago.
Based on how Beckham handled the offseason program (showing up but not really doing anything), and given his statement from a week ago that he plans to report for camp, Beckham probably has been contemplating a report-but-refuse-to-participate-in-team-drills approach. The news that a holdout remains on the table likely indicates that his representatives hope to persuade Beckham that it’s much better to not show up than to show up and not work.
So will Beckham show up? Again, he shouldn’t. And the team needs to know now that he won’t, which would make the start of training camp a very real deadline in a deadline-driven industry.
The core question remains whether Beckham is wired to withstand a holdout. Last year, when he stayed away from offseason workouts due to his contract status (but never admitted that was the reason for it), Beckham seemed to be ultra-sensitive about any and all criticism regarding not-really-a-holdout holdout.
Indeed, Beckham blocked the PFT Twitter account simply because I repeatedly said that he should explain why he’s not participating in offseason workouts, so that the fans will understand why he’s not there.
We nevertheless support his quest to be paid what he deserves. The owners have made, and will continue to make (without any actual physical or business risk), billions. The NFL’s best and most popular players individually have one or two chances to make the millions they deserve.
And they have limited tools for forcing a recalcitrant team to pay up. For Beckham, the best (only) option is to not show up for training camp. While many who simply don’t get it would give him a hard time for doing it, those who understand the realities of the situation will — and should — support him.