When we last heard from the Giants about Odell Beckham Jr., general manager Jerry Reese was telling the media that the superstar receiver needed to grow up. It’s safe to assume that the team’s opinion won’t be changing much with his decision to miss the OTAs, the portion of spring practices where players don their shorts for some on-field, football-like activities.
Why he hadn’t shown up for the VOLUNTARY workouts was a mystery until Wednesday morning. Nobody from OBJ’s side has admitted as much, but ESPN’s Adam Schefter is reporting that Beckham’s spending his time away from the team because he wants a new deal.
Other than rehabbing an injury, there is no better reason for skipping OTAs.
Beckham deserves more money
The five highest-paid receivers in the NFL all make a yearly average of $14 million or more. Julio Jones is the NFL’s highest-paid receiver with $47 million in guaranteed money from the deal he signed in 2015. Antonio Brown signed a $68 million deal with $19 million fully guaranteed in February.
Beckham is in the second-to-last year of his rookie deal, making a base salary of $1.84 million this year. The Giants picked up his fifth-year option, for 2018, which will pay him just under $8.5 million, still way off from what the game’s top receivers make.
Under the terms of the 2011 CBA, players on the their rookie contracts can’t negotiate new deals until they’ve accrued three seasons. Beckham came into the league in 2014, so he’s got his three years of service, and damn, those were three prodigious years.
He finished last season with 101 catches for 1,367 yards and 10 touchdowns. Not too bad. He’s never had fewer than the 1,305 receiving yards he posted as a rookie in 2013.
The 4,122 yards he’s had over the first three seasons of his career has only been exceeded in NFL history by Randy Moss, who posted 4,163 receiving yards over the first three years of his career.
Beckham has clearly earned the right to demand a new deal. Skipping voluntary workouts to make that point is perfectly acceptable for players whose careers average barely three seasons and could end in a single snap.
I would refer you back to Geoff Schwartz’s overview of OTAs and the justifications for skipping them:
“Players also skip this time period to dispute their contract status. I’m totally for using any leverage you have to get a better contract. In the case of Beckham, his main provider of salary is actually Nike at the moment.”
Still, that might not be enough to hold back the tsunami of takes about a player who’s already a lightning rod for criticism.
Does it even matter if he’s not there?
Beckham’s missed OTA practices before. In 2015, his second season, a hamstring injury kept him sidelined for part of the time. Last year, he wasn’t there for part of OTAs either (he was there for the first day of them). That absence was communicated with head coach Ben McAdoo, who didn’t seem the least bit worried about it last year.
"They reached out, they communicated, and that's what we ask," McAdoo said. "These are voluntary practices. And when they can't be here, we just ask that they communicate that. The guys who missed today have been outstanding with attendance otherwise."
“Outstanding attendance otherwise” feels kinda subjective in OBJ’s case. Injuries have kept him from being a regular on-field presence for offseason work throughout his career. And he’s been MIA for a few things with his teammates this spring.
Here’s where we note again that all of these things are voluntary. The only offseason practice required from players, per the collective bargaining agreement, is the mandatory minicamp in June.
Missing offseason work hasn’t exactly held back Beckham’s production over the first three years of his career. The Giants need him at OTAs more than he needs to be there.
Beckham is one of several prominent players who are skipping OTAs this year because they want a contract that better reflects their contribution to the team. Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald is one of them, the lone All-Pro player on a roster of the forgotten.
He’s certainly not the first player to do it either. Antonio Brown and Demaryius Thomas both skipped OTAs in 2015. Thomas had gotten the franchise tag that year, and ultimately agreed to a new deal worth as much as $70 million over five years.
I could go on an on with examples, even if we limited it to receivers. It still probably wouldn’t be enough to convince some fans, the ones who stand by billionaire owners and think players are greedy for wanting to maximize the value of their short careers with multi-million-dollar deals.
The next chapter in this empty drama is next week when the Giants meet for mandatory minicamp from June 13-15. Prepare your takes accordingly.