With the start of NFL free agency now feeling like an eternity ago, and the NFL looking toward the 2022 Draft at the end of the month, talk of free-agent landing spots has settled down. That doesn’t mean, however, that there aren’t some very interesting decisions still to be made by teams and free agents alike.
Probably the most well-known free agent who is still available is Odell Beckham Jr, or “OBJ” as he is often referred to.
The former first-round pick by the New York Giants has had a rollercoaster of a career so far. From the highs of his personal successes in New York to the lows of his time in Cleveland, it appeared his career had been rejuvenated after joining the LA Rams mid-way through last season.
Beckham Jr. scored a touchdown in the Ram’s Super Bowl victory over the Cincinnati Bengals in February. The day, however, was bittersweet for OBJ, with the star receiver suffering the second ACL tear of his career.
In no particular order, below are just a few teams who will be monitoring the star receiver’s rehabilitation.
At one point, it seemed as though OBJ returning to the Rams was almost a certainty.
The partnership worked for both parties in 2021. OBJ got to play on a winning team and saw his production dramatically increase from his time with Baker Mayfield and the Browns.
For the Rams, they had a talented WR to play behind Cooper Kupp, something which became particularly important after Robert Woods went down with a season-ending injury shortly after Beckham Jr. arrived in LA.
Some off-season moves made by the Rams seem to suggest his successes in LA might be limited to those achieved in 2021.
Cooper Kupp is the team’s clear number one receiver, with new addition Allen Robinson the WR2 after Robert Woods departed in free agency. With 25-year-old Van Jefferson also on the roster, OBJ might struggle for playing time, particularly coming back from his second ACL tear.
Nevertheless, with Beckham Jr. and Les Snead both previously suggesting they would like his time in LA extended, the Rams need to remain firmly near the top of this list.
The Green Bay Packers were reportedly one of the teams interested in signing Beckham Jr. after his release from the Cleveland last season.
Desperate at the time to give back-to-back league MVP Aaron Rodgers more weapons at the receiver position, they are even more so now. Star receiver Davante Adams was traded to the Las Vegas Raiders in the off-season, resulting in a current receiver room that is significantly less impressive than in 2021.
To fill the Adams-shaped hole in the offense, they may need to break their streak of not drafting first-round receivers. However, it may be beneficial to bring in a talented veteran such as OBJ as well.
The signing of Sammy Watkins to the Packers may be their way of doing so, and OBJs chances of landing in Green Bay may have taken a hit as a result.
From OBJ’s perspective, he would get to play with future hall of fame QB Aaron Rodgers, by far the best quarterback he would have caught passes from in his career so far. With Rodgers often focussing his targets on his favorite receivers, Beckham Jr. could see an uptick in his production if he can build chemistry with the back-to-back MVP.
One of the more surprising potential destinations for OBJ is the Indianapolis Colts.
The Colts committed to being in win-now mode again this off-season, trading for veteran QB Matt Ryan. Beckham Jr. even tweeted in support of the trade by the Colts, something which obviously sparked rumors of himself following Ryan to Indianapolis.
Whether or not this was actually part of the intention behind the tweet, we will likely never know. It does however open the conversation around what the match would look like.
The Colts are currently desperate for receivers to play alongside Michael Pittman Jr. Many think they will look to draft a young talent in the first round this year, but similarly to the Packers, it could be beneficial to bring in a veteran.
For Beckham Jr., he would remain on a team that has hopes of the NFL playoffs and a spot in the Super Bowl, albeit not at the same level as the Rams or Packers at this stage. He would, however, be one of Matt Ryan’s most prolific targets in the passing game, something he may not be in LA.
While not the most likely location out of the teams listed in this article, it would not be a surprise to see OBJ in a Colts uniform in 2022.
The longer the former rookie of the year does not have a team, the more depressed the market for his services appears – Bill Belichick’s favorite time to pounce on a free agent.
Add to that the fact the Patriots need help at wide receiver and the pairing makes perfect sense. Mac Jones showed in his first season that it seems as though the Patriots have a franchise QB. He needs more weapons, however, if they are going to go to the next level and be a serious threat in the AFC.
Clearly aware of this, they have already signed DeVante Parker in free agency. While the receiver room may appear full, particularly if they draft a young receiver as many have predicted, there could be room for OBJ to feature later in the season if the Patriots make a playoff push.
Beckham Jr. could follow his former Rams teammate Von Miller to Buffalo.
Miller already recruited OBJ to one team, with both players joining the Rams midway through 2021 on their way to a Super Bowl victory.
It therefore wouldn’t be a stretch to see him do it again, with OBJ already commenting support for Miller after he posted a photo of himself in Buffalo Bills gear.
In terms of the pairing, it would also make sense for both parties. Outside of Stefon Diggs, the Bills’ wide receiver room could use some help. Gabriel Davis is young and has promise, but a veteran with the upside of Beckham Jr. could be vital in the Bills’ playoffs hopes.
For OBJ, he would be playing with one of the league’s best quarterbacks in Josh Allen. He would also be joining a Super Bowl contender, with the Bills currently having the league’s best odds to win the championship next season.
A Louisiana native, Beckham Jr. also played his collegiate football at LSU, so a return home to New Orleans is not out of the question.
There is a receiver shortage in New Orleans, something which is likely to impede the success of the Saints and Jameis Winston should it not be addressed this off-season. Michael Thomas has only played a handful of games since the start of 2020, and as a result, is yet to build the kind of chemistry with Winston as he had with Drew Brees.
Adding OBJ to the mix of receivers outside of Thomas which includes Marquez Callaway and Trequan Smith could allow the Saints to go elsewhere in the draft, and look to push for an NFC playoff spot without needing a full rebuild, as some have suggested.
For OBJ, a return home to Louisiana may be appealing, as well as having a clear path to becoming one of Winston’s most important pieces in the passing game. The path to the playoffs and a return to the Super Bowl is not as clear as it might be in Green Bay or LA, with the Saints having the Tom Brady-led Buccaneers in the division.
Bonus: New York Giants
Speaking of a return “home”, a potential destination that is far more unlikely than the others listed here, but also quite an interesting story is the New York Giants.
The Giants have lacked a true number one receiver ever since they traded OBJ ahead of the 2019 season. 2021 first-round pick Kadarius Toney and free-agent signing Kenny Golladay combined for zero touchdowns in a disappointing 2021 season for the G-men.
New general manager Joe Schoen is not afraid to hand out 1-2 year contracts during the rebuild of the franchise, having already done so with a number of players this off-season. OBJ will likely need to accept a contract like this wherever he ends up, with his age and injury history likely taking a long-term contract off the table for the receiver.
This is where the likelihood of a return to New York ends, however. From the player’s perspective, he would be joining a team in the first year of a rebuild, and one that may have a rookie QB the following year if Daniel Jones does not work out in 2022. This is unlikely to be appealing to the 29-year-old former Giant, and outside of nostalgic reasons a move back to East Rutherford doesn’t make much sense.
The teams mentioned above all appear to be possible landing spots for the star receiver, in one way or another. His decision of course is not limited to these, with other teams such as the Baltimore Ravens potentially fitting the win-now, WR needy criteria used to evaluate his decision.
It may take some time to find out where he plays in 2022, with many teams likely monitoring his progress in rehabbing his knee from the ACL tear suffered in the Super Bowl. One thing is certain, however, wherever Beckham Jr. ends up he will have the eyes of the NFL watching to see the kind of levels the superstar receiver can return to as he approaches his thirties.