OPINION: Odell Beckham trade carries some risks

headshot_Alex Cala

Alex Cala

Even as the notification flashed across my screen Tuesday, I still couldn’t believe it.

Odell Beckham Jr., “Madden NFL 16” cover boy and superstar wide receiver for the New York Giants, was now a Cleveland Brown, acquired in a trade for two draft picks and safety Jabrill Peppers.

While most of the immediate reactions to the trade were those of overwhelming positivity (including mine), I have since tempered my expectations, and unlike many, I have concerns about the move.

Yes, the price the Browns paid doesn’t look terrible at first glance. I’m aware that Peppers and the draft picks surrendered don’t sound as appealing as a four-time Pro Bowl receiver.

However, the fact remains that in an NFL that is currently more pass-heavy than at any point in history, Peppers would’ve been an immense asset in 2019.

After a disastrous rookie season, Peppers actually came into his own last year, ranking as Pro Football Focus’ 19th best safety and culminating in a game-sealing sack versus the Denver Broncos in Week 15.

Even though his departure may not hurt as much as you’d think, a secondary featuring Peppers, fellow safety Damarious Randall and defensive back Denzel Ward had 17 interceptions last year, tied for sixth-best in the NFL.

I’m not sure if trading Peppers without a ready replacement is a wise move with the Browns playing star quarterbacks such as Tom Brady, Ben Roethlisberger and Jared Goff next season.

This undercutting of young talent is a concern on the offensive side of the ball too.

While Beckham may be an immensely talented All-Pro receiver, his health and production have been an issue as of late, with the receiver playing in 16 of his last 32 possible games and mustering a disappointing 1,052 receiving yards in 2018.

Similar production could’ve been stoked out of several Browns receivers, including Antonio Callaway and Rashard Higgins, both of whom have salaries that are a fraction of the $17 million that Beckham is set to make in 2019.

By disregarding the young talent already on their roster, they are not only building the team in an inefficient manner but now have more than $100 million committed to Beckham and fellow receiver Jarvis Landry.

This will cause difficulties in the future when the team needs to resign players such as quarterback Baker Mayfield, Ward and running back Nick Chubb, with these contracts becoming albatrosses as Beckham and Landry enter their 30s.

Yet again, Beckham is great, but I’m not sure he’s more valuable than these players in the long run.

I also feel Beckham will not be the best locker room presence as a Brown.

While he recently received a glowing endorsement from Giants co-owner John Mara, the fact remains that Beckham’s behavior has drawn a fair amount of controversy during his career, with the most concerning act being a 2018 interview in which Beckham openly questioned the commitment of his teammates.

Considering the Browns’ troubled past with players such as Josh Gordon, as well as the current presence of infamous running back Kareem Hunt, I just don’t think this outspoken attitude is a good omen for the team.

With Beckham’s presence, things can easily go haywire, a possibility that seems far-fetched, but isn’t far-fetched considering the immense dysfunction seen under owner Jimmy Haslam.

However, no matter what happens, the fact remains that Beckham’s acquisition is the most consequential by the Browns since their return in 1999, a testament to the acumen of general manager John Dorsey.

I can only hope the excitement surrounding this acquisition is an omen of things to come, because if it is, Browns fans may finally have something to celebrate in the offseason besides the NFL Draft.

Alex Cala is a columnist. Contact him at [email protected]