The Browns are in checkmate. They just don’t realize it yet.
When it comes to dealing with receiver Odell Beckham, Jr., there’s nothing to negotiate. Nothing to discuss. With a trade not an option, their choices are to let him return to work, to suspend him without pay for conduct detrimental to the team, or to release him.
They’re trying to carve out another approach, “excusing” him from team activities while figuring out what to do. Per multiple reports, he’s “excused” again on Thursday. Even if he wants to practice.
Basically, they’re suspending him with pay. Starting with the 2006 CBA, teams lost the ability to do this. If he fights it, he’ll win. They can’t keep him out of the facility, or off the practice field.
They could, in theory, suspend him without pay for four weeks for conduct detrimental to the team and force him to file a grievance. At the end of the day, Beckham would get his money after prevailing. In the interim, the Browns would delay his arrival with a new team.
But that would be a horrible look for the Browns, exacerbating the distraction while also sending a bad message to current and future players about the way the Browns do business. Look at the Steelers. As coach Mike Tomlin has said many times (and most recently this week), it’s better to have volunteers than hostages. If Beckham wants out, let him go. While that can become a dangerous precedent, the broader goal should be to create an environment that makes players want to be there. The Browns failed to make Beckham wants to be there.
The Browns are better off without Beckham. Beckham is better off with the Browns. Although the Browns may not want to see Beckham end up with the Chiefs or the Bills or the Ravens or the Steelers, the best play is to let him go. The only play is to let him go.
The fact that, as coach Kevin Stefanski said on Wednesday, G.M. Andrew Berry is talking to Beckham’s representatives suggests that there’s something to talk about. There isn’t. They can welcome him back, suspend him without pay, or cut him. That’s it. And the sooner they make the decision to move on, the better off they will be.