NFL News & Analysis

Cleveland Browns release WR Odell Beckham Jr.: Contract implications, landing spots and more

The Cleveland Browns are waiving disgruntled wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. following social media posts from Beckham's father. 

On Tuesday, Odell Beckham Sr. took to Instagram to vent frustration over Baker Mayfield, posting an 11-minute video of the Browns quarterback consistently missing his son on various throws throughout the 2021 season.

According to a report from Josina Anderson, Beckham Jr. planned to report to the facility on Wednesday and Thursday, but the team informed him that he had been excused from practice. Now the two sides are working toward an eventual release. 

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The lack of chemistry between Beckham and Mayfield is not a new storyline, as they have failed to get on the same page since the former New York Giant was traded to the Browns in 2019. 

Browns passing offense with and without Beckham on the field (2020)
Category Weeks 1-6 Week 7-17 
EPA per pass play 0.03 (24th) 0.29 (4th)
Yards per pass play 5.6 (25th) 6.8 (7th)
Mayfield's PFF grade 58.6 (31st) 90.3 (5th)
Mayfield's passer rating 84.3 (26th) 102.1 (9th)

For whatever reason, the Browns' passing offense was objectively far better operating without Beckham during the team's 2020 playoff run. 

Over their two years together, Mayfield and Beckham combined for 110 catches from 199 pass attempts for 1,513 yards, six touchdowns and eight interceptions. Of their 89 incompletions, 42 were charted as the result of a quarterback fault, while 15 have gone against the eighth-year receiver.

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Only Sam Darnold and Robby Anderson have combined for a lower passer rating generated over the past two years.

Duo Passer rating
Sam Darnold – Robby Anderson 71.4
Baker Mayfield – Odell Beckham Jr. 73.1
Andy Dalton – Tyler Boyd 76.0

Cleveland has a 13.3% break-even expectation of winning the AFC North, according to DraftKings pricing. PFF's Power Rankings Tool has that expectation at 18%.

Parting ways with the veteran wide receiver doesn't hinder the Browns' chances, as Beckham ranks 61st among wide receivers in PFF's Wins Above Replacement metric (PFF WAR). Cleveland currently sits at a league-average rating in PFF's pass route grades, and any uptick in that helps Mayfield play closer to his ceiling.

Related content for you: The Baker Mayfield Dilemma: Is the Cleveland Browns quarterback worth a top-end deal? via Doug Kyed

Where will Beckham Jr. play next?

After the NFL trade deadline, all players — including vested veterans — are subject to the waiver process. Teams will then have the choice to put in a claim for the remainder of Beckham's contract, and according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the Browns are planning to convert some of his remaining $8.05 million salary into a signing bonus to lessen the burden for a claiming team. Any amount converted into a signing bonus would stay in Cleveland from a cap and cash perspective.

According to a Twitter thread from ProFootballTalk, the Browns may also look to convert salary into per-game roster bonuses. This would be a wise move for Cleveland, as it would reduce the team's financial obligation moving forward but potentially not change much for an acquiring team on waivers. Beckham would earn the per-game roster bonuses for each game he’s active with the new club, and the Browns are not on the hook to pay the remaining guaranteed salary or for termination pay.

Per a report from ESPN’s Kimberley A. Martin, the New Orleans Saints and Browns discussed a potential trade before Tuesday’s trade deadline but were unable to work things out. Beckham played college football at LSU and high school football in New Orleans at Isidore Newman School, where Peyton and Eli Manning played quarterback. 

Beckham Jr.’s 66.1 receiving grade ranks tied for 73rd among the 134 wide receivers with at least 10 targets this season. He has eight explosive receptions of 15-plus yards, and his 14.3-yard average depth of target ranks 25th among that same group of wide receivers.

The veteran pass-catcher is still just over a year removed from a torn ACL, so perhaps there’s optimism that he will improve as the season goes on.

While he may not be 100%, he can still consistently create separation from defenders and now wants a quarterback who can deliver him the football when he’s open.

Beckham Jr. and Baker Mayfield: Incompletions by type (2019-2021)
Incompletion category
No. of attempts
QB fault
Overthrows 27
Underthrows 2
Too far in front 8
Too far behind 5
WR fault
Drops 9
Receiver error 4
Fell down 1
Stopped route 1
Forced incompletions by defense 29
Miscommunication 3

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers and quarterback Tom Brady, fresh off a defeat to the New Orleans Saints, have also discussed the idea of bringing Beckham aboard in the past. While the Buccaneers have one of the league’s deepest wide receiver groups, Antonio Brown is still recovering from an ankle injury suffered in Week 6 that requires a walking boot. 

Other teams that perhaps would be interested in signing Beckham Jr. include the Las Vegas Raiders, Green Bay Packers, Tennessee Titans and New England Patriots, among others. 

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Wherever he ends up, there could be serious playoff and fantasy football implications. 

Beckham currently leads the team in targets (15%) and, in theory, is their big-play threat. He leads the team in targets on throws between 10 and 19 yards downfield and 20 or more yards downfield.

Potential OBJ Landing Spots

Green Bay Packers

It’s no secret that the Green Bay Packers are badly lacking wide receiver depth. Wide receiver Davante Adams has been the sole threat within the group and has been fed as much as anyone in the NFL.

Adams has been targeted on 31.4% of his routes this season, which is the second-highest rate in the NFL. He’s made the most of that heavy load as evidenced by his league-leading 92.2 receiving grade, but the rest of the pack hasn’t pulled its weight.

Allen Lazard and Randall Cobb are both among the 25 least productive wide receivers in the NFL with 0.92 and 1.28 yards per route run generated, respectively. Marquez Valdes-Scantling will be making his way back from injury soon, but he hasn’t been able to produce a receiving grade outside of poor territory in the 50s and low 60s in any year of his NFL career. Adding OBJ would give Aaron Rodgers another threat for the first time in awhile. That is after he returns from the COVID-19 list, of course.

Las Vegas Raiders

Las Vegas is suddenly in need of a downfield threat with the release of 2020 first-round pick Henry Ruggs III. Ruggs was on the other end of the connection for seven of quarterback Derek Carr’s deep completions this season.

Bryan Edwards is now the No. 2 wide receiver option in the offense, but he hasn’t quite taken that next step and is by no means a separator. Edwards has earned a 70.5 PFF grade this season that sits right at the 50th percentile in the NFL while separating at the second-worst rate among that group.

New England Patriots

The Patriots’ receiving corps currently consists of players who are best suited as complementary options. That’s reflected in the PFF receiving grades for Jakobi Meyers, Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne. All three have earned receiving grades between 68.0 and 73.0 — somewhere between the 32nd- and 64th-ranked wide receivers in the NFL. 

Player Routes Run PFF Receiving Grade
Jakobi Meyers 294 72.4 (39th)
Kendrick Bourne 205 69.8 (52nd)
Nelson Agholor 256 68.1 (57th)

It’s been several years, but Beckham has shown the ability to lead a receiving corps as the top option. His addition would allow players like Meyers, Bourne and Agholor to settle into more natural roles, and it would give the 11th-highest graded quarterback in the NFL (Mac Jones) a true No. 1 target. 

New Orleans Saints

Michael Thomas’ potential return from an ankle injury was the light at the end of the tunnel for one of the thinnest receiving corps in the NFL. Thomas has been sidelined through the first eight weeks of the 2021 season. That possibility is off the table after Thomas announced on Wednesday that he wouldn’t be returning this season. 

Thomas had been targeted on nearly 30% of his routes across the 2019 and 2020 seasons, and the Saints haven’t been able to replace him this season. Running back Alvin Kamara leads the NFL’s run-heaviest offense in targets entering Week 9 (36).

The Saints find themselves as a playoff contender in the NFC despite Thomas’ injury, and now they also have to overcome a season-ending injury to starting quarterback Jameis Winston. OBJ would whoever ends up behind center for New Orleans a better chance of doing that. 

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