Who laughs last – Cleveland Browns, Giants or Odell Beckham Jr?

CLEVELAND, OH - NOVEMBER 27: Odell Beckham #13 of the New York Giants scores a second quarter touchdown in front of Marcus Burley #26 of the Cleveland Browns at FirstEnergy Stadium on November 27, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - NOVEMBER 27: Odell Beckham #13 of the New York Giants scores a second quarter touchdown in front of Marcus Burley #26 of the Cleveland Browns at FirstEnergy Stadium on November 27, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images) /

Who will laugh last at a possible trade of superstar Odell Beckham, Jr – the New York Giants, the Cleveland Browns or OBJ himself?

The story line is that Odell Beckham Jr. is a near-deity to the East Coast media, not to mention the New York Giants’ fan base, and thus the lowly Cleveland Browns simply can not have a player of his magnitude. The national media has picked up on the notion that the Giants are laughing at puny trade offers from the Browns for Beckham. The two sides did end up completing a trade with the Browns sending Kevin Zeitler to New York for Olivier Vernon. However, no deities were involved.

The reality is probably the opposite of what most of the media believe. The Giants are in serious trouble because they foolishly mortgaged the team’s future to an eccentric athlete who has missed 16 games over the past two years. You see, they managed to give OBJ a $90 million contract over five years, with $41 million guaranteed at signing, and $65 million in total guarantees, according to Overthecap.com. They need a team like the Browns to come along and help them fix their bloated salary cap.

OBJ is a star talent, but one who is high maintenance and needs constant attention. The New York media routinely calls for him to be suspended or benched for minor misdeeds that embarrass the team. The litany of sins includes various fights with opposing defensive backs, disparaging quarterback Eli Manning as well as the entire city of New York in the press, criticizing the NFL and other lapses of judgment. What the Giants apparently did not understand is that players don’t change their personalities just because you give them millions of dollars. It’s probably the opposite. With $41 million in guaranteed money, Beckham is set for life and can basically do whatever he wants. So that’s what he does.

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It’s kind of hilarious to watch former Browns head coach and now Giants head coach Pat Shurmur and general manager Dave Gettleman squirm every time OBJ does something outrageous. They can shake their fists and turn blue in the face, but OBJ still has $35.5 million guaranteed as of 2019. All of this money would come due in 2019 should they decide to cut him. Based on total cap number of $21 million charged to the 2019 cap, the Giants would have to pay another $14.5 million to cut or trade him. Again the bottom line is in fact the bottom line: $35.5 million charged to the Giants 2019 salary cap if OBJ is not on the team this year. It is hard to believe that any team can afford to do that, and so that is a reason for being skeptical that there could really be a grade. OBJ would have to be so horrible that it is worth $35.5 million to not have him on the team.

OBJ is a distraction for sure, and his value should probably have been discounted a few million per year to account for the real impact of feuding with other players and management, the risk of suspensions and the like. But in no way is there anything so terrible that the team needs to spend $35.5 million to get rid of him.

If the Browns or another team were to trade for him, they have to pick up his salary, plus workout bonus and roster bonuses, amounting to about $17 million or a little less if he skips workouts. That is still huge amount of money for a guy who missed 16 games in the past two years.

Two years ago, the Browns and the Houston Texans illustrated the concept of an overpaid asset in the form of Brock Osweiler. The Texans figured that they made a mistake signing Osweiler to a big contract, so they sent the Browns a second round draft pick just to persuade the Browns to take on his salary of $16.5 million. Thus Osweiler had negative value in a trade because of his high salary.

At the time, they did not know they would be picking fourth, so let’s just say it was estimated to be mid-second round at the time, for purposes of valuation. If a mid-second round pick is worth $16.5 million, a mid-first round pick can be estimated using the factors developed by Gil Brandt of the Cowboys, which tells us that a mid-first round pick is probably worth some $30 million-$40 million in salary cap.

Because the Giants are insane, they think OBJ is not only worth his salary, but they will probably think that they are entitled to a first round pick in a deal. That is where the crazy part kicks in. Signing OBJ as a free agent at $17 million per year would be overpaying, but if you kick in an asset worth $35 million amortized over four years, the trade cost is astronomical.

They say that the NFL is the league in which anything can happen, and usually does. So on that basis it is possible that some team will give up huge assets for a player who is already overvalued. And the Giants will tear their salary cap in shreds just to get rid of him. But that is very unlikely. The most likely scenario is that the Giants are stuck with OBJ and their team will lack the salary cap resources to address other needs.

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Trading OBJ would be horrifically expensive for the Giants because of the huge guarantees built into his contract. It would also be a bad deal for the Browns if they have to give up major draft picks to get a player who is overvalued. It would be a bad trade for both sides.

OBJ and his agent have the last laugh.