NFL News Mailbag: Odell Beckham Jr. potential free-agent destinations, Patriots QB competition and more

Inglewood, California, USA; Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. (3) carries the ball against the Seattle Seahawks in the first half at SoFi Stadium. The Rams defeated the Seahawks 20-10. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

  • Odell Beckham landing spot: The Rams, Buccaneers and Bills have been identified as potential fits for the free-agent wide receiver.
  • Patriots QB competition? Even if Bailey Zappe can’t push to start, Mac Jones should interpret Bill Belichick’s non-answer that way.
  • Sean Payton to Carolina? Sources don’t see a fit for the ex-Saints head coach.
Estimated Reading Time: 7 minutes

There’s a potential game-breaking wide receiver still available on the open market.

So, where will Odell Beckham Jr. wind up? We’ll answer questions about Beckham, why Bill Belichick is opening up speculation of a quarterback controversy, Sean Payton’s fit with the Carolina Panthers and more in this week’s PFF mailbag.

@juicywhiteman97: Where is @obj signing ????

The simple answer is that no one knows yet. The most logical fit remains with the Los Angeles Rams, but Beckham tweeted Wednesday, “LA knows where I wanted to be… but they didn’t offer me…. ANYthing! So idk what people want me to do, I def kno my worth and what the offer was isn’t reflective of that. So it’s tough to say that I can come on back even tho I thought I finally found that home!”

Beckham underwent surgery to repair a torn ACL less than eight months ago after the Rams beat the Cincinnati Bengals in Super Bowl LVI. Rams head coach Sean McVay responded Tuesday to Beckham’s tweet, telling reporters: 

“I love Odell. We have constant dialogue. He also knows that certainly I don't think that's the last (offer) that would come from us. I'm not familiar with what it is. He knows how we feel about him. We've got a little bit of time. But (I) love Odell. Nothing but good things coming from me.”

The Rams’ offense currently ranks 30th in EPA per play after finishing seventh in that metric last season. The Rams were first in EPA per passing play in 2021. They’re currently 29th this season.

Most of their issues have come because of injuries to their offensive line, but L.A. misses wide receiver Van Jefferson, who is currently on injured reserve with a knee injury. And free-agent addition Allen Robinson currently ranks 94th out of 95 qualified wide receives in yards per route run. Rams QB Matthew Stafford is targeting Ben Skowronek more than Robinson, and 2021 second-round pick Tutu Atwell has just one 54-yard catch on four targets this season.

So, if the Rams up that offer, then Beckham is definitely a fit when he’s healthy. They need a healthy offensive line more, but they could definitely use a wide receiver like OBJ.

Another team identified as a fit from a league source recently was the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. And that was before Buffalo Bills pass rusher Von Miller said last week that Beckham would visit Tampa. Free-agent pickup Julio Jones has only played in three of the last four games and is currently missing practice with a knee injury. The Buccaneers have been plagued by injuries, and signing Cole Beasley to fill out the group didn’t work out. He retired after two games.

There’s still time left before Beckham is fully recovered from his torn ACL, but if those injuries in Tampa keep pilling up, then I could see the Buccaneers being a fit.

Beyond those two teams, Miller mentioned the New Orleans Saints and Buffalo Bills. Beckham also recently was in the New York Giants’ facility visiting former teammate Sterling Shepard. The Kansas City Chiefs, Baltimore Ravens and Green Bay Packers also could use wide receiver help.

@tb12wins6: Ride the wave with zappe…. Right?

I think it’s interesting that Bill Belichick didn’t entirely shoot down the idea of Bailey Zappe remaining the New England Patriots’ starting quarterback when Mac Jones is healthy.

Here was the exact line of questioning in a news conference Wednesday:

Q: Is Mac [Jones] the starter when he's ready to go? 

BB: We'll see where he is today. I don't know.

Q: Is it possible that Mac [Jones] could possibly be healthy enough to back up Bailey [Zappe] but you wouldn't start him? 

BB: I don't know. We'll see.

Here’s my educated guess on why Belichick handled his answer that way: 

Regardless of whether or not Zappe could actually continue to start when Jones is ready, Mac should interpret Belichick’s non-answer that way. Competition is a good thing at any position, including quarterback.

I know better than most that Belichick is cagey with the media. It’s also unlike him to create controversy where it’s not needed, and he did open the flood gates to speculation Wednesday. Jones did not play as well through the first three weeks of the season as he did in 2022. He could probably use a bit of a push.

One source I spoke to about the situation this week noted that this puts more pressure on Jones to perform when he does re-take the field. Tom Brady started performing better once Jimmy Garoppolo came into Gillette Stadium as a rookie in 2014. There was no reason for Jones to think of Zappe as a threat when he was the third-stringer behind Brian Hoyer for all of training camp, the preseason and start of the regular season. But now maybe he does feel a little pressure behind him to perform better than he did at the start of the season.

Mac Jones Bailey Zappe
PFF Grade 58.4 68.2
Passing Grade 58.8 72.7
Big-time throw % 5.8% 0.0%
Turnover-worthy play % 5.1% 2.3%
Average depth of target 10.4 yards 7.1 yards
Adjusted completion % 69.1% 82.9%
Deep passing grade 77.8 67.3
Clean pocket grade 78.2 87.2
Grade under pressure 25.4 36.8
Play-action passing grade 75.9 79.0

And to answer your question: No, I would not ride the wave with Zappe. I would start Jones when he’s healthy. And if he struggles, then maybe you revisit the Zappe conversation. The rookie QB isn’t going anywhere for the next four years, and he was drafted to be a backup.

@WilliamTroyer32: Are the colts all the way back?

I don’t mean to be a jerk, but did I miss a game between the Indianapolis Colts squeaking by the Denver Broncos in the worst game ever played and now? I know the Colts beat the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 4, but no, I wouldn’t declare Indianapolis “all the way back” at 2-2-1.

@StupidNerdGuy: Has there been any discussions of Payton to Carolina?

Most people I’ve spoken to don’t see it as a fit. As I wrote in this week’s rumor roundup, the Panthers will need to pay an NFC South tax if they want to acquire Sean Payton from the New Orleans Saints. The Panthers are already low on draft picks and will need what they have to acquire their quarterback of the future.

It’s not a great situation for most head coaches, and it’s a really bad one for Payton if he wants to compete right away.

@ashley1992__: Hi Doug, What do the Patriots do at RB now that Harris is out for a while? Is it Rham, JJ Taylor and Pierre Strong or do you think they add another veteran to the roster?

Patriots running back Damien Harris was limited in practice Wednesday with a hamstring injury. NFL Media’s Tom Pelissero reported Tuesday that Harris is expected to miss multiple games.

The Patriots will stick with Rhamondre Stevenson, Pierre Strong and their practice squad options, J.J. Taylor and Kevin Harris, for now. They haven’t even brought in any running backs for visits or workouts. And Stevenson has proven this season that he can carry the load on early downs and can be used as a receiver and pass-blocker on third downs.

Stevenson should go off again this week, by the way. He carried the ball 25 times for 161 yards and caught two passes for 14 yards last week against the Detroit Lions, who rank 32nd in EPA per run play against. Now he’ll face the Browns, who rank 31st in EPA per run play against and just allowed 34 carries for 238 yards with two touchdowns to the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 5. They then immediately traded for ex-Atlanta Falcons linebacker Deion Jones.

The Patriots love Stevenson. They have the utmost confidence in him on all three downs, and there’s good reason for it. Over the last two seasons, Stevenson ranks third among qualified running backs in overall PFF grade and fifth in rushing grade. He’s fifth in yards after contact per attempt, sixth in missed tackles forced per attempt and seventh in first down + touchdown percentage. He also has the third lowest stuff rate at 5.1 percent.

Harris has also been very, very good, and the Patriots’ offensive line deserves a lot of credit, but Stevenson will go off if Harris misses time.

@Zeee_Dee: Is it time to say Maxx Crosby is now a tier 1 edge rusher and should be compared to names like Myles Garrett, TJ Watt, etc.?

Over the last two seasons, Las Vegas Raiders edge defender Maxx Crosby is second among qualified edge defenders in overall PFF grade and pass-rush grade, seventh in run defense grade, ninth in sacks, first in pressures, third in pass-rush win rate, second in pressure rate and fifth in pass-rush productivity.

So, yes.


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