Julio Cortez / Associated Press
As spring turns into summer and NFL training camps draw nearer, free agency has wound down. Most of the players who will make a sizable impact this season already know where they will play in 2022.
However, there are a few big names who are still on the open market. Some are holding out (at least in a fashion) in the hopes for a bigger and better deal than what they have been offered to date. Others have a cloudy future due to an injury.
Odell Beckham Jr. falls into that last camp. After tearing his ACL in Super Bowl LVI, the 29-year-old’s availability for the 2022 campaign remains a question mark. But while Beckham hasn’t recently been able to post the gaudy numbers that he did over his first few years in New York, we saw some flashes in LA of that player who took the NFL by storm back in 2014 and 2015.
And if that type of player is able to get back on the field for the stretch run, then with the right fit Beckham could be the ultimate wild card, the sort of difference-maker who can mean the difference between a cup of coffee in the postseason and a run all the way to Glendale, Arizona, and Super Bowl LVII.
Julio Cortez / Associated Press
At first glance, Beckham’s 2021 doesn’t look particularly impressive. Over 14 games split between the Rams and Cleveland Browns, Beckham caught just 44 passes for 537 yards and five touchdowns. His 12.2 yards per reception was the second-lowest mark of his career. His average of 38.4 receiving yards per game was his lowest by a sizable margin.
But dig a little deeper, and the picture brightens considerably. All five of Beckham’s regular-season scores came after he joined the Rams. So did his best single-week stat line of the entire season — a five catch, 81-yard effort (with a touchdown) in a Week 12 loss to the Green Bay Packers.
Once the playoffs got underway, Beckham truly emerged.
The three-time Pro Bowler caught all four of his targets for 54 yards and a score in the wild-card matchup against the Arizona Cardinals. He followed that up with six catches for 69 yards on the road against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Then he exploded to tune of nine catches for 113 yards in the NFC Championship Game against the San Francisco 49ers. And then he reeled in two passes for 52 yards and a touchdown before his knee gave way in the Super Bowl victory over the Cincinnati Bengals.
All told, Beckham had 21 catches for 288 yards and two touchdowns in four postseason games. Extrapolated over an entire regular season, that would equate to a beefy 89 / 1,224 / 9 stat line. Those numbers would be Beckham’s best since 2016.
That hot streak ended in heartbreaking fashion for Beckham. But as Ian Report of NFL.com told The Pat McAfee Show, there was a silver lining. It allowed doctors to go in and fix Beckham’s knee properly after surgery to fix his 2020 tear didn’t go well.
“When Odell tore his ACL with the Browns … it didn’t sound like [the surgery] went as well as anyone would’ve hoped, “Rapoport said.” So before the Rams signed Odell Beckham this past season … the knee was a concern because it wasn’t 100 percent healthy. And I don’t believe they would have given him a long-term deal just based on the knee because it was troubling. … This past surgery went really well, and he is probably going to have extended his career. “
The Rams may not have wanted to give Beckham a long-term deal. But despite OBJ’s injury and the fact that LA acquired Allen Robinson as a new running mate for Cooper Kupp, head coach Sean McVay made it clear during a recent appearance on The Rich Eisen Show that Los Angeles hasn’t ruled out running it back with Beckham in 2022:
“I really want Odell back on our team. He’s a guy that in a short amount of time we were able to develop a really special relationship. I thought he brought a great spark to our team. I thought he played really well. He’s a We all know what a charisma and a presence that he has, but he is truly a great teammate, made so many impactful plays.It was a shame to see him go down in that game, but man, he sure still made an impact with those two catches that he did have and without a doubt want to get Odell back here. “
Per Rapoport, a reunion with the Rams remains the most likely outcome for Beckham this season. That makes sense on more than one level. OBJ has already shown a comfort level with the team and quarterback Matthew Stafford. Once he’s healthy, a trio of Kupp, Robinson and Beckham would be one of the most potent in the NFL.
For his part, Beckham is not ruling out a return to Los Angeles either.
There are some other playoff contenders who would be well-served to at least kick the tires on bringing Beckham in. The Packers have won 13 games in each of the last three seasons, but they have massive question marks at wide receiver after they dealt Davante Adams to the Las Vegas Raiders. On yet another radio appearance, Rapoport reported that Green Bay could have Beckham on their radar.
The Baltimore Ravens also traded their No. 1 wide receiver (Marquise Brown) in the offseason, leaving second-year pro Rashod Bateman as the presumptive No. 1 atop a very shaky depth chart at the position.
The Dallas Cowboys have CeeDee Lamb and Michael Gallup but not a lot behind that duo. It’s a similar case with the Indianapolis Colts, who have Michael Pittman Jr. and rookie Alec Pierce.
To be clear, it is unrealistic to think that Beckham will step in and save the day starting in Week 1. We are talking about a player who will turn 30 in November after tearing his ACL in February. Per the Mayo Clinic, rehab time for an ACL injury is at least eight months, which would sideline Beckham into October. He’ll more likely than not open the regular season on the physically unable to perform list.
The thing is, with the exception of Green Bay, none of the above teams are looking for a savior at wide receiver. They don’t need a No. 1 wideout. They should be in the thick of the mix for a playoff spot with or without OBJ.
The Packers will be too. They play in one of the league’s weaker divisions. Relax.
But while Beckham may not be able to save a team, he showed last year that he can boost a club over the top. He can make opponents pay for bracketing a team’s No. 1 wideout. And he can take pressure off that wideout when he does.
It’s a movie we just saw as Beckham played the role of a late-season lottery ticket, of the wild card who propels a team over the top.
There’s no reason to think he can’t do it again. The only difference is that this time he’ll be on the sidelines for half of the season instead of languishing in Cleveland.