NFL

Where will Odell Beckham Jr play next?

It is unlikely that Odell Beckham Jr will be picked up off waivers by any team and will enter the free agency fray as an expensive luxury for most.

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Where will Odell Beckham Jr play next?
Nick Cammett AFP

Odell Beckham Jr is on the move again. Cleveland have released him on waivers after his father and LeBron James posted a video on Instagram accusing the Browns’ quarterback Baker Mayfield of either not throwing to or missing the star wide receiver when he was wide open. The merits of that argument are debated in depth elsewhere and are beyond the scope of this article, but suffice it to say that the video has divided opinion on its merits

This was all a bridge too far for the Cleveland front office and faced with an open revolt between their star 2019 trade signing and their apparent franchise quarterback, the Browns gave Beckham what he claims to have wanted. They cut him loose. But a player of Beckham’s caliber is never adrift for very long, so where is his next port of call likely to be?

The Browns spent a few days last week restructuring OBJ’s contract in an effort to turn some of that guaranteed salary into a signing bonus, but anyone who takes him off waivers will still be on the hook for $7.25 million for the rest of this season. There are only nine teams with that kind of money still in the cap, only one of which is allegedly on Beckham’s wish list. The Seattle Seahawks are number nine in the cap list and according to Mike Florio of NBC’s ProFootballTalk, may be the preferred option for Beckham. But with Seattle’s playoff picture looking bleak at the moment, this may be just wishful thinking on part of the Seahawk faithful. A more likely scenario is that Beckham goes unclaimed, allowing him to become a free agent. The possibilities in this scenario then become far more interesting. Theoretically, he could be picked up by anyone at that point, and every team has had their name bandied around in this case. Here are the five most likely.

New Orleans Saints (5-3)

Let’s get the obvious one out of the way first. Everyone in Louisiana is salivating over the idea that OBJ will come back home and play for the Saints. On first glance, it is not an insane idea. As a local lad, he had a stellar prep career in the city and up the road in Baton Rouge, he led one of the SEC’s most potent attacks in recent memory during his three years at LSU. A deal to bring him back to the Bayou State will certainly be investigated by everyone and would not be out of the question for Beckham if a deal could be done. But, and this is a big one here, the Saints are a team with no quarterback. They are hanging around gamely in the NFC South and are leaning heavily on their running game to keep them within reach of a Wild Card spot. But with Jameis Winston out for the season, New Orleans are unlikely to look for a marquee receiver when they are struggling for someone to put the ball in his hands.

Green Bay Packers (7-2)

Having stated that he would prefer to play for a contender and with a veteran quarterback, thoughts must immediately turn to Aaron Rodgers and the 7-2 Green Bay Packers. Matching Beckham with an elite passer would be a marvel to behold. The questions would be, firstly, would the current saga surrounding Rodgers’ Covid vaccination status and the possible league fines that may be on the horizon take Green Bay’s eye off the ball just long enough for another team to swoop in? Secondly, would Beckham be able to work within a system where he most certainly wouldn't be WR1? He could complement Davante Adams, but stars that burn as bright as OBJ are difficult to contain when they are kept in a supporting role.

Las Vegas Raiders (5-3)

Hot on the heels of releasing Henry Ruggs III, who's facing a felony DUI resulting in the death of another person charge, the men in black are in dire need of an outlet for Derek Carr to get the ball to. Beckham has expressed no opinion on Las Vegas and the move remains an outside possibility, if an enticing one. One possible stumbling block is that Carr is an equal-opportunity passer and this might be too close to the low-risk, short yardage offense run by Kevin Stefanski and Baker Mayfield in Cleveland for Beckham’s liking.

New England Patriots (5-4)

Bill Belichick in New England has a knack for squeezing out the last drop of football that you have in you and has made Foxborough a destination that gives disgruntled players a second life. Beckham still has a lot to offer to the league and if anyone can get it out of him, the man in the hoodie certainly can. At 4-4, the Patriots desperately need to make a strong second-half push for the postseason and OBJ just might be the horse they decide to mount.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-2)

The NFC South leaders are looking to repeat their post season success and are one to keep an eye on in this hunt. Dismissed by many as an outsider in this saga, there is a real possibility that Beckham might look for January silverware with the Buccaneers. Tom Brady has two of his favorite targets struggling with injury this season, with Rob Gronkowski and Antonio Brown both questionable going into the last half of the season. The possibility that Bruce Arians might look to protect their lead in the divisional race and give his legendary quarterback a big target to hit weighs in pretty high on the what-if list.

Of course, there are 31 teams that will be in the offing for Odell Beckham Jr, and a few strong possibilities have been left out. The Rams have a way of making strong trade moves, as do Kansas City. Andy Reid would love to get the ball from Mahomes to OBJ and as 2020’s Super Bowl losers, the Chiefs will certainly be looking to do all that they can to get there again. San Francisco are reportedly in the hunt as well, but all of these teams are at the moment, anyway, slight outsiders. Wherever he winds up next, though, you can be sure that he will want to get the ball as quickly as he can, and that can only make for more exciting gridiron action.