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With Odell Beckham Jr. released by the Browns, should the Patriots go after him?

Related: With the trade deadline in the rear-view mirror, N’Keal Harry is focused on ‘doing whatever I can to help this team win’

Cleveland Browns v New England Patriots Photo by: 2019 Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty Images

Update 11/5/2021: With Odell Beckham Jr. released by the Browns, should the Patriots go after him?

As was speculated heading into Friday, the Cleveland Browns and Odell Beckham Jr. have indeed parted ways. The team will release the Pro Bowl wide receiver, which in turn will expose him to the waiver wire: the club with the worst record in football — the 0-8 Detroit Lions — will have the first priority to claim him, with the New England Patriots coming in at No. 15.

The current waiver order before New England looks as follows:

  1. Detroit Lions
  2. Miami Dolphins
  3. Houston Texans
  4. Jacksonville Jaguars
  5. New York Jets
  6. New York Giants
  7. Washington Football Team
  8. Philadelphia Eagles
  9. Seattle Seahawks
  10. Chicago Bears
  11. Atlanta Falcons
  12. San Francisco 49ers
  13. Minnesota Vikings
  14. Indianapolis Colts
  15. New England Patriots

With the weekend coming up, Beckham Jr. will not be awarded until 4:00 p.m. ET on Monday — if he even gets claimed by one of the NFL’s 32 teams. Given that the Browns reportedly restructured his contract to lower his salary down to near the veteran’s minimum, however, it would not be a surprise if a team jumped onto him.

Could that team be the Patriots? He would certainly be a fit in the New England offense in case the finances work out.

For a more in-depth look at the situation, please take a look at the following analysis from earlier on Friday:

Original story 11/5/2021: If Odell Beckham Jr. leaves the Browns, should the Patriots go after him?

The NFL trade deadline has come and gone, but that did not stop the rumor mill from slowing down. Quite the opposite, actually, with a new name being added to the mix as a potential target for the New England Patriots: wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr, who appears to be on his way out of Cleveland.

What happened? Beckham Jr. is apparently unhappy with his lack of opportunities in the Browns’ offense after catching only 17 passes for 232 yards over the first six games of the season. His representatives were therefore urging the team to explore a trade ahead of Tuesday’s deadline; Cleveland did reportedly come close to sending him to the New Orleans Saints, but the two clubs could not work out the financials.

After not getting traded on Tuesday, things escalated to a point where the Browns are now expected to release Beckham Jr. sooner rather than later: after some social media hubbub over a video shared by the wide receiver’s father, he was excused from practice for two days in a row for non-football related reasons.

The Browns and the Pro Bowl wide receivers parting ways at one point felt like a certainty anyway. Beckham Jr. still has two more years left on his contract, but he is not guaranteed any money after the 2021 season. His outlook beyond this season seemed muddy at best.

However, the tension has apparently now grown to a point where the two sides will move on without each other. According to Yahoo Sports’ Charles Robinson, the two sides have already agreed to part ways.

This, in turn, brings us back to the Patriots.

Could the team be interested in Odell Beckham Jr? And, if so, what would it take to bring him on board in the first place? Let’s take a step-by-step look at the procedures and the likelihood of the 29-year-old finding his way to New England.

How Odell Beckham Jr. could end up in New England

With the trade deadline behind us, every player released by an NFL team will have to go the same route before becoming an unrestricted free agent: through the waiver wire. That means that each team based on the current draft order will get a chance to claim him. The lowest claimant will get the player in question, and take on his contract.

In Beckham Jr’s case, his new team would absorb his remaining salary for the 2021 season ($8.05 million) plus the remaining non-guaranteed salaries and roster bonuses for 2022 and 2023 ($15 million each). Obviously, the Browns and the wide receiver could work out a revised deal before a release to bring his cap number down. For the time being, however, we will have to go with the current structure of his deal.

As of right now, not a lot of teams would be able to fit it under their respective salary caps. In fact, only nine teams have more cap space available than Beckham Jr’s current charge, according to Over The Cap:

Of those nine teams, four are placed lower in the waiver claim order than the Patriots. At 4-4, New England is ranked 15th. The following four teams therefore have claiming priority over them plus the necessary cap space to take on Beckham Jr. without any major follow up moves or restructures needed:

  • Jacksonville Jaguars: No. 4
  • Washington Football Team: No. 6
  • Philadelphia Eagles: No. 8
  • Seattle Seahawks: No. 9

So, for Beckham Jr. to make it to the Patriots he would have to pass through these four teams without getting claimed. Then, New England would have to find a way to fit him under its current salary cap: the Patriots, according to Miguel Benzan, have only $2.59 million available — not enough to take on the wide receiver without some serious restructures and/or cuts elsewhere.

As a result, the Patriots would likely not attempt to claim Beckham Jr. in case he indeed gets released. That said, there is no guarantee other teams will put in a waiver claim either after he seemingly forced his way off of two organizations — first the New York Giants, then the Browns — in the last three years.

He could therefore very well go unclaimed and enter the open market. At that point, it becomes a free-for-all.

Theoretically, Beckham Jr. could even be added at the minimum salary for a player of his experience. That number is $1.075 million, but with the first nine weeks of the regular season already in the books — the Browns will pay him for Week 9 since he remains on their roster with the necessary deadline passed — only $537,500 remain.

At that number, New England could very much get involved to bring in a game-changing offensive weapon at a reasonable cost. Obviously, though, Beckham Jr. would have to agree to join the organization at a below-market or any other comparatively reduced rate. That is especially true if others are offering him more.

However, his past statements indicate that he might be willing to join the Patriots and head coach Bill Belichick on a half-year prove-it type deal.

“Two, three years ago there was a whole speculation and all that was going on and I was willing and ready to go over there at any point in time,” Beckham Jr. said in 2019.

The circumstances have changed since then — Tom Brady, for example, is no longer the Patriots’ starting quarterback — but it is no secret that Beckham Jr. holds Bill Belichick in high regards. That might be enough to convince him to join the team if the opportunity presented itself.

As can be seen, though, a lot would have to go right for that to happen.

With that said, let’s tackle a follow-up question:

Should the Patriots make a play for Odell Beckham Jr?

As noted above, Beckham Jr. would have to pass through the waiver wire if released by the Browns; it seems unlikely that the Patriots go after him there based on the current financial obligations of his contract in combination with their relative lack of salary cap space.

The situation changes in free agency, especially if the wideout would be willing to arrive at a discounted price. Beckham Jr, after all, is as gifted a wide receiver as any in football.

Yes, he is still recovering from the torn ACL he suffered last October. Yes, there might be questions about his ability to fit onto a ship as tightly run as the Patriots’. Yes, the team already has some solid contributors at wide receiver.

What also is true, however, is that Beckham Jr’s skillset would fit in well with the team’s emphasis on timing routes and the offense they are running with rookie Mac Jones at the helm. After all, he offers something no other wide receiver on the team’s current payroll has — something the Patriots have been lacking ever since Julian Edelman announced his retirement earlier this year: elite quickness.

Kendrick Bourne and Jakobi Meyers are serviceable in that area, and in a way more proven than a post-surgery Odell Beckham Jr, but they are limited to a degree. A fully-recovered Beckham Jr, on the other hand, offers the ability to run routes at an Edelman-like efficiency and pace, and would give New England a tremendous weapon in the slot.

From that perspective, adding him to the equation should be a no-brainer if the finances check out.

The same also goes for positional value. The Patriots would have to make a follow-up move to free up a spot on their 53-man roster. However, parting ways with depth players such as offensive lineman Yasir Durant or linebacker Calvin Munson (despite the latter’s special teams prowess) should not be that tough a decision to make when it comes to the possibility of adding a player of Beckham Jr’s caliber.

So, to go back to the question posted above: Should the Patriots make a play? It all hinges on the finances, but if the team is able to work those out adding Beckham Jr. would give them an established wide receiver who might be eager to prove his doubters wrong after a rather disappointing stint in Cleveland.

Obviously, though, Beckham Jr, the Browns, and the rest of the league are in “one step at a time” territory at the moment. First, he would have to be released; then, the rest will work itself out — maybe with the Patriots getting involved as well.