There are two undeniable facts about the Green Bay Packers’ 2020 offseason plans:
1. Brian Gutekunst declared he’ll be in every conversation when it comes to player acquisition.
2. The Packers have a dire need for more talent at the wide receiver position.
Based on these facts, it seems a safe bet Gutekunst and his staff will prioritize the position through all available avenues: the draft, free agency, and trades. Considering the combination of need and the available depth at WR before the season starts, this probably sounds like a no-brainer to Packers fans.
Yet there are ways of addressing the position that might seem controversial. There’s a certain player out there with an equal amount of star talent and potential baggage: Odell Beckham Jr. Should Gutekunst consider making an offer for the ridiculously talented diva?
Three factors are in play when considering whether OBJ makes sense in Green Bay: availability, on-field talent, and off-field personal life.
After being traded to the Cleveland Browns prior to the 2019 season, Beckham’s tenure started with some controversy immediately; he chose to skip OTAs (which, of course, are optional). But the former Giant showed up to training camp and seemed happy to work with Baker Mayfield and Jarvis Landry, his best friend and college teammate.
But Freddie Kitchens, to the shock of few, ended up being a bad hire at head coach, and the lack of culture and on-field success threw the team into disarray. Multiple reports of OBJ and Landry wanting out of Cleveland circled the media, but those of us outside the industry never got a straight answer.
It’s hard to pin the negativity on Beckham’s shoulders. Former Browns general manager John Dorsey squandered an extremely talented team by hiring an unqualified head coach in his ego battle with the powers that be in Cleveland.
With Kitchens and Dorsey gone, there is a new regime in Cleveland yet again. While the most recent reports make it sound like both receivers are in the picture and that OBJ is not available for trade (according to Jay Glazer at theathletic.com), new leaders want to have their own guys, and there is no guarantee they won’t entertain offers. And we don’t know that OBJ won’t do his best to get out of the Land. Regardless, almost every player has a price.
Is Beckham worth that price, however? Three or four years ago, this would sound like a stupid question. OBJ was the biggest household name at the position and graced the cover of Madden. But after a stellar first three years in the league, Beckham’s 2017 season was cut short by an ankle injury.
He bounced back in 2018, playing 12 games and tallying 77 receptions worth 1052 yards, but only six touchdowns. He also threw for two touchdowns, showing off some of his unique skills. His 87.7 yards per game and 62.1% catch percentage were the second-highest of his career (pro-football-reference.com).
2019, his first season with the Browns, saw unfortunate lows for Beckham. He had 74 receptions for 1035 yards and four touchdown receptions, all down from 2018 despite playing in all 16 games. It should be noted he did deal with a sports hernia and had core muscle surgery after the season, so health was obviously a factor. Still, ignoring his short 2017 season, OBJ had career lows in TDs (4), yards per game (64.7), catch percentage (55.6% ), and yards per target (7.8). Much of that can be attributed to how disappointing the Browns offense was as a whole, but it can’t be dismissed.
But the last few years have proven Beckham still has star power when healthy — he can make plays few others can and would be absolutely brutal when paired with Davante Adams.
But the most controversial part of a OBJ2GB arrangement is going to be his off-field antics. In the past season alone, Beckham had controversies surrounding his OTA availability, his dedication to his team, giving money to student-athletes, and slapping a cop’s butt. Packers’ fans likely won’t forget the boat ride before the 2016 playoffs or that he punched a hole in the visitor’s locker room at Lambeau.
Yet Beckham’s teammates always describe him as an asset and a great presence in the locker room. Baker Mayfield said OBJ gave Browns preseason star Damon Sheehy-Guiseppi $2000 and a pair of his cleats. Former Giant and short-time Packer Jawill Davis told LockedOn Packers’ host Peter Bukowski how influential of a teammate Beckham was when he was a UDFA for the Giants. Jarvis Landry has stuck by his friend for years. Everywhere Beckham has been, he has teammates batting for him.
Even beyond these anecdotes, I believe the Packers’ locker room culture is strong enough to balance some of OBJ’s quirks and can help him settle down a bit. Strong leaders like Aaron Rodgers, Davante Adams, and Za’Darius Smith are the ideal teammates for Beckham. And Matt LaFleur is the antithesis of Freddie Kitchens as a head coach.
When talk of Odell Beckham Jr. as a Green Bay Packer floated around, I was skeptical. Yet for all the controversy around him, Beckham still gets results on the field and is beloved by teammates. Should the Packers consider a trade? It seems highly unlikely it won’t at least be explored. If the price is right, Beckham could be the boost this team needs to get to the Super Bowl. I’m a draft and develop guy, and I love draft picks, but the Packers are in win-now mode, and the idea of Davante Adams and Odell Beckham Jr. on the same team is a juicy thought.Matt Hendershott is a Packers fan and Miller High Life enthusiast from Northwest Ohio. He has a Master of Arts in Media and Communication from Bowling Green State University. You can follow him on Twitter @MattHendershott.