The Browns weren’t just the talk of the NFL on Tuesday night. They dominated the discussion.
That’s not likely to change anytime soon.
Giants superstar receiver Odell Beckham Jr. is headed to Cleveland, making the Browns perhaps the most interesting team in the NFL.
General manager John Dorsey pulled off the blockbuster trade Tuesday night, agreeing to send first- and third-round draft picks and strong safety Jabrill Peppers to the Giants for one of the league’s most prolific and high-profile playmakers.
A league source confirmed the deal to The Chronicle-Telegram. It can’t become official until the league year begins Wednesday afternoon at 4.
The first-rounder is No. 17, and the third-rounder (No. 95) is the pick obtained from the Patriots in exchange for nose tackle Danny Shelton. The Browns have eight picks left.
The package is substantial but reasonable for someone of Beckham’s talent. He was the No. 12 pick of the 2014 draft by the Giants, NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year and is a three-time Pro Bowler. He has 390 catches for 5,476 yards, a 14.0 average and 44 touchdowns. He’s averaged 92.8 yards a game.
“At this point I have no idea what to think. I’m trying to process it right now,” Beckham told NFL Network’s Lindsay Jones. He called leaving the Giants “bittersweet.”
The reaction in Browns Town was all sweet.
“It feel good!!” receiver Jarvis Landry wrote on Instagram under a picture of him FaceTiming Beckham, his former teammate at LSU. “@obj I love you brudda”
— Jurassic Myles? (@MylesLGarrett) March 13, 2019
“John Dorsey is officially a genius…” free safety Damarious Randall tweeted.
Dorsey has been aggressive with trades and free agency signings since he took over a winless team in December 2017. None of the moves compare to this one, which came four days after he agreed to a trade for Giants Pro Bowl pass rusher Olivier Vernon.
The Browns and Giants agreed to swap midround draft picks in the Vernon trade, but that part of the deal was reversed in the Beckham trade. So the Browns will keep No. 155 in the fifth round and the Giants keep No. 132 in the fourth round.
Dorsey said two weeks ago at the scouting combine the Browns weren’t ready to go all-in for a run to the Super Bowl, somewhere the organization has never been.
“I don’t think we’re a team yet to go for it,” he said.
His actions scream something different.
Pro Bowl defensive end Myles Garrett was asked on NFL Network if the Browns are the team to beat in the AFC North.
“Absolutely,” he said, despite a 16-year playoff drought. “I think the tide has turned and can’t wait to get out there and prove it. It looks good on paper, but we gotta prove it.”
Rumors of a possible trade for Beckham over the last week had fans on the edge of their seats. One of the biggest deals in franchise history made them spring to their feet in excitement.
Quarterback Baker Mayfield likely had a similar reaction. They’re friends, and Beckham gives Mayfield a dynamic threat in the passing game.
— Baker Mayfield (@bakermayfield) March 13, 2019
Mayfield posted on Instagram a picture from last summer of him with Beckham and Landry. One of the comments came from actor and New England fan Mark Wahlberg.
“AFC Championship against the patriots next year guaranteed,” he wrote.
The thought would’ve been ridiculous a year ago, with the Browns coming off only the second 0-16 season in NFL history. But Dorsey quickly rebuilt the roster, and Mayfield led a second-half turnaround to 7-8-1.
They’re now considered one of the favorites in the AFC, not just the North, where the Steelers and Ravens have lost a lot of talent in the last week. Cleveland’s Super Bowl odds have dropped from 40-to-1 on Feb. 3 to 17-to-1, according to FanDuel Sportsbook.
“Dorsey the GOAT!” linebacker Christian Kirksey tweeted.
Beckham, 26, is one of the most exciting players in the NFL, piling up huge statistics and building a highlight reel filled with acrobatic one-handed catches and long touchdowns. He signed a five-year, $90 million contract with $65 million guaranteed in August — the biggest deal for a receiver at the time — yet the Giants were willing to let him go, despite GM Dave Gettleman insisting they didn’t sign him to trade him less than a year later. The Giants paid Beckham $21.459 million for 2018 and will have $16 million in dead money on the salary cap this season.
NFL Network reported Beckham wants the Browns to restructure what’s left of the contract.
Even if the contract remains the same, the Browns will have a lot of money tied up at the receiver position, with Landry heading into the second year of a five-year, $75.5 million deal. But with Mayfield on his rookie contract, this is the time to spend at other positions and “go for it.”
The Return had to be the craziest thing I ever witnessed!!! https://t.co/GrDntaucSs
— Jarvis Juice Landry (@God_Son80) March 13, 2019
Beckham isn’t without faults. He’s missed 21 games because of injuries, making 56 starts in 59 games over five seasons, and can be emotional and prone to outbursts on the field and sideline. Giants coach and former Browns coach Pat Shurmur was upset with Beckham for doing an ESPN interview last year and not giving his full support to quarterback Eli Manning.
But when Beckham plays, he’s hard to match — or stop.
He’s played at least 12 games in four seasons, eclipsing 1,000 receiving yards in each. His best year came in 2015 when he caught 96 passes for 1,450 yards and 13 touchdowns.
Beckham was on pace to rival those numbers last season before missing the final four games with a bruised quadriceps. He finished with 77 catches for 1,052 yards and six touchdowns.
He was limited to four games in 2017 after breaking an ankle.
Beckham wasn’t always happy with the Giants and showed that displeasure, but the Browns offer what should be a comfortable setting. In addition to Mayfield and Landry, receivers coach Adam Henry held the same position when Beckham and Landry played at LSU.
The Browns will probably make a move at safety following the trade of Peppers, the No. 25 pick in 2017 and a New Jersey native. They’ve reportedly shown interest in Seahawks safety Earl Thomas, who will become a free agent today.
Landing Thomas, a six-time Pro Bowler, would only add to the excitement and interest.