It undoubtedly will be an interesting day in Berea.
On Tuesday, Browns receiver Odell Beckham Jr. tried to social-media his way out of town, with his father and LeBron James jostling for a trade. It’s now clear that OBJ isn’t happy.
So what will the Browns do? Coach Kevin Stefanski meets with reporters later today, and Beckham undoubtedly will be the A topic. Before then, it’s likely that Stefanski and Beckham will have a conversation. It’s possible that others (like quarterback Baker Mayfield) will be involved.
Mayfield surely won’t be happy about the broadside he took from Odell Sr., who posted a lengthy video of all the times that Baker has failed to get the ball to an otherwise open OBJ. Then there’s the question of whether Mayfield and Beckham ever really meshed.
From the moment the trade happened in early 2019, I wondered aloud whether Cleveland is big enough for both Mayfield and Beckham. Then came the offseason program. Beckham showed up for the first day, then bolted. Mayfield, who was there all the time, likely would have appreciated the chance to develop the right chemistry with his new target. Once the season arrived, Beckham made his desire for the ball too obvious, putting extra pressure on Mayfield to wait for Beckham to get open, or to force it to him.
Last year, coach Kevin Stefanski tried to get Beckham involved in other ways. Bubble screens, jet sweeps, handoffs, and other devices can be used to get the ball in the hands of a playmaker. That happened in Week Four at Dallas. It hasn’t happened since.
Beckham has indeed been open. Defenses apparently aren’t blanketing him like they used to. And why should they, if he’s not going to get the ball?
Right now, the Browns need to decide whether to fully embrace Beckham or to release him and hope someone claims the balance of his 2021 salary on waivers. The risk in keeping him is that the dynamic could be an issue, especially if Mayfield is upset with Beckham’s tactics for forcing a trade. The risk in cutting him is that he could end up with an AFC rival, like the Bills or the Chiefs.
That’s why the best play would have been to either make him happy before it all exploded on Tuesday, or to trade him to a contender in the NFC. However it plays out from here, the 2020 NFL coach of the year will have an opportunity to prove that he deserves that trophy.