Would it make sense for Cleveland Browns to trade Odell Beckham, Jr.?

CLEVELAND, OHIO - SEPTEMBER 17: Odell Beckham Jr. #13 of the Cleveland Browns misses a touchdown catch against Darius Phillips #23 of the Cincinnati Bengals during the second half at FirstEnergy Stadium on September 17, 2020 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OHIO - SEPTEMBER 17: Odell Beckham Jr. #13 of the Cleveland Browns misses a touchdown catch against Darius Phillips #23 of the Cincinnati Bengals during the second half at FirstEnergy Stadium on September 17, 2020 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images) /

The Cleveland Browns love OBJ but might need to fix the salary cap situation.

This Cleveland Browns fan loves superstar Odell Beckham Jr. and hopes a trade doesn’t happen, but if the salary cap needs to be balanced out there is a way that a deal could be made that’s not insane.

First, let’s review what does not make sense. OBJ’s 2021 salary-cap charge is $15.75 million, which is a crazy high number. Because OBJ is recovering from an injury, his contract is guaranteed to the tune of  $12.79 million.

That means if the Browns listen to the Bozo fans who want to cut him, the Browns pay $12.79 million, while he moves to Baltimore to become the No. 1 target for Lamar Jackson. Make no mistake, that is exactly what would happen if the Browns were to do such a foolish thing.

Then, we would find out that he is still a superstar, can make unbelievable circus catches, and do all the things you have seen on the highlight films, but he will do it while wearing a purple jersey. This is simply not a viable plan, and merits no further discussion.

The last time OBJ played a full season with an injury that required surgery, he had 1,000 receiving yards in the Freddie Kitchens offense. So he’s certainly a highly talented receiver, and ridiculing his ability likewise merits no further discussion.

Now, what else is not sensible? The Browns are unlikely — though not quite impossible — to find a trading partner for a straight-up trade for, say, a high draft pick. The reason is that OBJ’s salary is too high for 2021. In a season when Corey Davis signs for $37.5 million for three years, and  Nelson Agholor signed for $26 million for two years, why would a team take on OBJ’s salary and give up a high draft pick? That doesn’t sound very likely, unless the other team is totally sold on OBJ as the Messiah.

So, assuming the Browns wanted to offload salary cap space, how would it be done in an intelligent way that a trading partner would actually accept?

This could possibly be done by adding additional value for 2021 in the form of draft picks. Ideally, the trading partner would be in win-now mode and would be willing to pay a premium to obtain draft capital for 2021. There’s some possibility that a trading partner might give up a No. 1 pick in 2022 for a No. 2 in 2021, though realistically it would be acceptable just to get back the draft capital investment in 2022. Hence it is suggested that the Browns give up a present-year 2021 draft pick, and get it back next season.

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This benefits the Browns if you take the point of view that the 2021 draft class has been poorly scouted due to Covid-19 wreaking havoc on the college football season, with some small-school players having their season taken away. Moreover, free agents are a better value this year than rookie players.

The Browns will need draft picks more in the future when they are suffering from a free-agent hangover and need low-budget players. This season the free agents are a better value, in this analyst’s opinion anyway. The 2021 draft class will be a little light, and a lot of good players will slide out of the draft and will be available for zero draft capital as Undrafted Free Agents (UDFA).

Cleveland Browns give up:                  Cleveland Browns get:

Odell Beckham, Jr.                                  2022 Second-round draft pick

2021 Second-round draft pick           $15.8 million cap relief in 2021

You might argue that the Browns need to get more in 2022 or perhaps do not deserve as much, but the basic idea is that they have to give up some additional draft capital to induce a trade partner to take on OBJ’s salary. To some extent, this is similar to the situation that led to the Brown Osweiler trade between the Texans and Browns in 2017, in which the Browns had to be coaxed to take on Osweiler’s salary by being given an additional draft pick.

Who would make a deal like this? Well, one possibility is Tampa Bay, if they can clear the additional cap room. Tom Brady likes talented but slightly eccentric wide receivers, having worked with both Josh Gordon and Antonio Brown in his day. He could probably get the best performance out of OBJ. One more Super Bowl ring would not be out of the question. How awesome would it be to see OBJ in a Super Bowl against the Browns? Unless, of course, they were to actually beat the Browns.

Better still, let’s keep him in the orange and brown and hope that there are other ways that the salary cap dilemma can be resolved, without bloodshed. The best situation is for the Browns to extend Beckham with some additional guarantees, get his career back on a Hall of Fame trajectory, and keep him in Cleveland for years to come.

This of course is not the only formula that might work out for both teams, but is presented as one example that could be regarded as a win-win. The two teams would have to have different viewpoints about the value of the draft, and the trading partner would have to have a strong perceived need for a true number one receiver who is a deep-ball threat.

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The Browns, on the other hand, are more about ball-control, possession-type receivers and cold weather, natural turf football.