EAST RUTHERFORD — OK, so let’s say Odell Beckham Jr.’s wildest dream comes true, and John Mara makes him the highest-paid player in the NFL in order to help ensure his star receiver is a Giant For Life.
The deal is done. The papers are signed. Beckham is making somewhere north of $25 million a year on average. The goal he revealed to a highly-skeptical world via an UNINTERRUPTED video has been achieved.
And the gratification lasts for … a few weeks? Months? Maybe a year if he’s lucky?
Not to go all open letter here, but looks are almost always deceiving when it comes to NFL contracts, especially in this case.
Being the highest-paid player in the NFL is like being the WWF Hardcore Champion. You’re the guy, it’s great, you’ve got the belt … and then someone sneaks up and bounces a toaster off your skull, 1-2-3, and they’re the champ and you’re not any more.
In other words, if Beckham somehow got what he wanted, it wouldn’t be too long before one of the other 31 clubs gave one of their stars – likely a quarterback – a new deal paying just a few bucks more a year on average. Then that guy would be the NFL’s highest-paid player and begin counting down the days until the next man up took his crown.
It’s a pointless, hollow title. Which is why Beckham shouldn’t worry about being the highest-paid, but rather historically paid.
Mara, the Giants’ co-owner has more or less said he will not allow Beckham to play for another team. So Beckham should call his bluff and draw a line in the sand: He will not sign for anything less than a fully-guaranteed multi-year deal that a) surpasses the $70.2 million in guaranteed money Broncos linebacker Von Miller got, the most-ever for a non-quarterback and b) pays him more than the $17 million annual salary that Steelers wideout Antonio Brown currently makes.
Beckham has been a generational player on the field. He can have a generational impact off it too. The only thing in the NFL that matters is guaranteed money, and most believe the only chance the players have of ever securing fully guaranteed deals (beyond first-round picks in their rookie deals) like their counterparts in baseball and basketball is a prolonged work stoppage many doubt the NFLPA as a whole could weather.
But what if Beckham, who clearly has a Giants organization hell-bent on keeping him in blue, landed the first blow before the collective bargaining agreement expires after the 2020 season and a strike is even possible?
Money is only good if it is hand. Instead of focusing on achieving some impressive three-digit sticker price thanks to smoke and mirrors with no guarantees after the second or third season, Beckham should ensure every penny he signs for will eventually be deposited in his bank account.
Beckham is under contract for two more seasons. He will make about $1.84 million this season and is scheduled to get about $8.46 million in 2018. Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio projected what Beckham would then make in 2019-21 if he were to be paid at the franchise tag rate all three seasons. The sum total of the five years came out to about $82 million.
So how about this: Beckham plays this year at $1.84 million, which is what the Giants are clearly going to make him do considering they have talked a wonderful game about an extension, but have yet to actually open negotiations. If all goes well – Beckham stays healthy, has another Pro Bowl-caliber season and shows the growth and maturity the team is looking for – then the two sides enter negotiations with the intention of getting a deal done before next season.
One idea: A three-year extension (through 2021) with $66 million in new, guaranteed money. Couple that with the 2018 salary already coming his way, and Beckham has a four-year, $74 million deal ($18.5 million per), fully guaranteed.
Beckham might not be the highest-paid player, but he will have complete safety and changed the game forever. People will still cry foul about NFL compensation every summer when the NBA begins to hand out ridiculous money, but those cries will be a bit more muted if Beckham can break through. Plus he’ll be set to be a free agent again in 2022 at age 29, so he should have no issue getting a second big payday.
The Giants will have secured their budding franchise icon indefinitely and saved money, and headaches, in the long run without the franchise tag being discussed, much less utilized. They would be taking on plenty of risk, but that’s the cost of doing business. Mara doesn’t seem like anything would knock him off his path with Beckham, and even if disaster somehow struck, the Giants would have cap challenges, but only for so long.
People will remember the first truly guaranteed superstar a hell of a lot longer than who was the highest-paid player between Derek Carr and Matthew Stafford. Beckham, who has crossover appeal outside of football and boasts ties with LeBron James and other global celebrities, might be the man to finally reach a seemingly-unreachable star. That’s a goal certainly worth chasing.
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