In early October, when Odell Beckham Jr. was no longer in the mood to be cryptic about his disappointment with the Los Angeles Rams and their “lowest of lows” contract offer for 2022, a source from the team posed a question that resonates louder than ever this month. At the time, Beckham was still months away from being viable on the football field due to a torn ACL last season, but the Rams were trying to do their best to stay in his good graces.
Then Beckham tweeted on Oct. 12 that the Rams didn’t offer him “ANYTHING,” and that while the free agent wideout knew his “worth”, the deal offered by the Rams “isn’t reflective of that”.
“What is his worth and who is offering it to him?” a Rams source asked a few days after the Beckham tweet. “That’s everyone’s market, right?”
The source added that they weren’t trying to be dismissive, reiterating that the Rams wanted a reunion with Beckham after he helped them win the Super Bowl in February. But they also reiterated a caveat that three members of the Rams braintrust offered when I visited training camp in August: Beckham wouldn’t be ready to play until late in the season. By then, circumstances could have changed for both sides. Regarding the Rams, that was exactly right. Seemingly everything has gone wrong, knocking the team out of postseason contention and making a Beckham pursuit a moot point.
But for Beckham?
The circumstances surrounding his contract expectations are still pretty familiar. He believes he knows his worth. And as of Dec. 13 — two months since his complaints about the Rams — Beckham still doesn’t have an NFL team willing to give it to him. Not the Dallas Cowboys. Not the New York Giants. Not the Buffalo Bills. And not any of the other Super Bowl contenders that could have lined up visits with him this week, but curiously haven’t tried. All of which makes a multitude of teams wrong about Odell’s worth, or maybe he’s sailing with a free agency map that’s upside down.
To underline that reality, let’s consider a line from one of the founding fathers of day-trading, Jesse Livermore. As the 1900’s stock market savant once framed it, “Markets are never wrong, opinions often are.”
In this case, Beckham’s opinion of his worth is demonstrably wrong. If it wasn’t, he’d be on an NFL roster right now. Instead, veteran players like TY Hilton and Cole Beasley have signed with the Cowboys and Bills, respectively. Meanwhile, nobody in the NFL seems entirely sure what Beckham looks like running around on a field after his second ACL surgery, because he declined to work out on any of his free agency visits earlier this month.
While they might not be in a hurry to say it publicly, that was a problem for the teams that were most eager to sign him. Meanwhile, Hilton worked out for Dallas Monday morning and had a contract by the afternoon. And Beasley? He agreed to sign a practice squad deal that could very well make him a week-to-week roster decision for the team.
All of this comes just days after Beckham said publicly that he did not see the point of playing in the regular season. Which, if we’re being real here, is in the same zip code as a team not seeing the point of signing a player who doesn’t want to play in the regular season.
Different opinions. Different decisions. Beckham remains unsigned. Hilton and Beasley do not. That’s the market speaking.
Of course, it’s not like this is all because of a workout issue. Beckham does not want a short-term deal like the one he signed with the Rams last offseason. He made a bet on himself in 2021 that he wouldn’t get injured and he lost. It’s understandable why he doesn’t want to make that bet again. Instead, he went into last offseason wanting security. A one-year deal wasn’t going to entice him, especially when it would only give him a sink-or-swim widow of a few games — which might be just enough to get injured again but not quite enough to ramp up his free market agent.
It was clear from talking to the Rams in the preseason that Beckham was looking for a long-term deal. He wanted something substantial from the team, given that he’d helped them win a Super Bowl and expected some loyalty in return. When that didn’t happen, he was upset. But his contract attitude hasn’t changed. If he was signing somewhere, it was going to be for some long-term security and it was going to be for the kind of money that made him — at worst — a mid-level No. 1 wideout in terms of salary.
What teams have in mind for him is something different. In fact, the Cowboys just showcased roughly what Beckham would have been looking at in terms of contract structure with the team. Hilton got $600,000 for the remaining four games this season and will get $50,000 bonuses for each game he’s on the team’s active roster during those four games. Aside from that, Hilton can also land as much as $700,000 in postseason incentives.
A team source told Yahoo Sports the Cowboys were prepared to offer Beckham more money than if a deal had been discussed. However, it would have been heavily-incentivized and short-term in nature. Unfortunately for Dallas, that’s the kind of structure Beckham has isn’t interested in. It might be the market, but it’s still not the market inside Beckham’s head.
At some point, one side has to give here. And time is getting extremely short. Either Beckham is going to step closer to a team’s short-term outlook, or a franchise is going to lean into the wideout’s long-term hopes.
As of Tuesday night, significant compromise appears dead. And until something changes, that’s the best way to describe the status of Beckham’s 2022 season.