Browns end Odell Beckham Jr. saga by announcing they're granting his release
Happy b-day, OBJ.
The Browns and Odell Beckham Jr. are predictably breaking up.
Beckham received official word from the Browns on his 29th birthday he'll get the gift of freedom he sought from them.
“After careful consideration, internal discussions and conversations with Odell and his representation, we’ve determined that it is in the best interest of all parties involved that Odell no longer play for the Cleveland Browns," General Manager Andrew Berry said in a prepared statement released Friday morning. "We appreciate all his efforts and contributions while in Cleveland, but we’ve just reached a point where it is best that we move forward as a team without Odell. We are finalizing the process of granting Odell his release and we wish him well as he continues his career.”
The release is expected to become official Monday, a league source confirmed.
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How did the Browns and Odell Beckham Jr. get here?
Drama surrounding the wide receiver emerged earlier this week in the buildup to the NFL trade deadline, prompting the Browns to excuse Beckham from Wednesday and Thursday's practices as Berry discussed options with OBJ's representatives.
The two sides couldn't put the pieces of a fractured relationship together again, so the Browns decided to release Beckham.
He wanted to leave, and he got his way.
On Tuesday morning, a video was shared on the Instagram account of Beckham's father, Odell Beckham Sr., highlighting plays on which Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield missed opportunities to connect with a wide-open OBJ from Weeks 3-6 this season.
Shortly before noon Tuesday, Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James showed support for Beckham by tweeting, "OBJ will show again why he’s special. WR1 #FreeOBJ.”
Browns GM Andrew Berry moving on from OBJ:Releasing Odell Beckham Jr. 'really isn’t about the video,' but frustration over time
Why the Browns weren't able to trade Odell Beckham before the NFL trade deadline?
Despite the social-media circus, the NFL trade deadline passed at 4 p.m. Tuesday with Beckham remaining a member of the Browns (4-4), who will visit the Cincinnati Bengals (5-3) on Sunday.
Berry was unable to find a trade partner willing to pay the $8 million guaranteed Beckham would have been due for the remainder of this season.
Now Beckham will go on waivers. If he's not claimed, he'll become a free agent.
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Why two Cleveland Browns coaching staffs couldn't maximize Odell Beckham Jr.'s talents
Among the most maddening aspects of this for the Browns is two Cleveland coaching staffs couldn't maximize the talents of Beckham.
Coming off a torn anterior cruciate ligament suffered on Oct. 25, 2020, Beckham didn't play this season until Week 3, even though the Browns expected him to be ready for the Sept. 12 opener versus the Kansas City Chiefs.
In six games with the Browns this season, Beckham tallied 17 catches on 34 targets for 232 yards and two carries for 14 yards without scoring a touchdown.
The low point came in Sunday's 15-10 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, when Beckham caught just one pass on one official target for 6 yards.
“I'd like to see more points any which way we can do it,” Browns coach Kevin Stefanski said in his postgame news conference when asked if he would like Beckham to be targeted more. “Obviously, he's a player that we're counting on. A couple of opportunities. [The defense] just took it away.”
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Berry and Stefanski inherited Beckham. OBJ joined the Browns in March 2019, when former GM John Dorsey acquired him in a blockbuster trade with the New York Giants, who had signed the mega-celebrity player to a five-year contract extension worth $90 million, including $65 million guaranteed, in August 2018.
Beckham had been under contract with the Browns through the 2023 season and scheduled to make $15.75 million this year. There was no guaranteed money on his deal in the next two seasons, so the writing had long been on the wall for a departure in March 2022 before the timeline changed.
Dorsey traded safety Jabrill Peppers and 2019 draft picks in the first (No. 17 overall) and third rounds to the Giants in exchange for Beckham.
Why expectations didn't meet reality for the Browns, Beckham
Expectations for the Browns soared with the move, but Beckham and Mayfield never established the strong connection they hoped to find.
In 29 games with the Browns, Beckham made 28 starts and compiled 114 catches on 210 targets for 1,586 yards and seven touchdowns to go along with eight carries for 96 yards and a TD.
It isn't anywhere close to the elite production Beckham or the Browns envisioned. After all, Beckham had been one of the most dynamic playmakers in the NFL early in his tenure with the Giants, who drafted him 12th overall out of Louisiana State University in 2014.
In 59 games with the Giants, Beckham made 56 starts and racked up 390 catches on 622 targets for 5,476 yards and 44 touchdowns to go along with 15 carries for 74 yards.
Beckham had more than 1,300 receiving yards and double-digit touchdowns in each of his first three NFL seasons, but his production dipped as injuries interfered toward the end of his Giants days.
In September 2019, Beckham said he blamed former Browns defensive coordinator and interim head coach Gregg Williams for a string of injuries he's suffered because Williams teaches “cheap shots” and “dirty hits.”
Beckham had a high ankle sprain as a result of former Browns defensive back Briean Boddy-Calhoun hitting him low during a preseason game on Aug. 21, 2017, at FirstEnergy Stadium. At the time, Williams was in his first of two years with the Browns.
Beckham said he believes the injury led to a broken left ankle later in 2017 and a torn left quadriceps in 2018. Those injuries cost him 16 games in his final two Giants seasons.
Odell Beckham Jr.'s injury issues with the Browns
Beckham couldn't stay healthy with the Browns, either.
He played through a core muscle injury for the entire 2019 season and underwent surgery afterward.
He suffered a season-ending torn ACL in his left knee a little more than a year ago against the Bengals.
He suffered a right shoulder injury — USA Today's Josina Anderson reported it's a grade three sprained AC joint — on Oct. 17 against the Arizona Cardinals.
The sprain occurred just 10 days after Beckham revealed he has had a torn labrum in his left shoulder for 10 years dating to his LSU career.
How Beckham performed for the Browns
Beckham's history with the Browns cannot be written without chronicling the injuries, but his time in Cleveland will be remembered most for disappointing production, a lack of opportunities, drama and a controversial ending.
Beckham repeatedly expressed his desire to win a Super Bowl with the Browns and five-time Pro Bowl receiver Jarvis Landry, his close friend and former LSU teammate. Beckham believed his talent could lift the franchise to unprecedented heights.
But Beckham never became the focal point of the Browns' passing attack. Last month, he compared himself with NBA star James Harden while discussing his lack of targets this season, but insisted winning a championship remained his top priority.
“I can't sit here and lie like I don't want the ball,” Beckham said on Oct. 14, the last time he spoke to Browns beat writers. “Like I tell you every time I get up here, they don't pay James Harden for defense. He's a shooter. I feel like I'm a shooter.”
The son of a longtime NBA executive, Stefanski became the head coach of the Browns in January 2020, but he never got to coach Beckham for a full season.
In seven games last season before Beckham suffered the torn ACL, he caught 23 passes on 43 targets for 319 yards and three touchdowns and rushed three times for 72 yards and a TD.
His best game as a member of the Browns came in a 48-39 road win over the Dallas Cowboys on Oct. 4, 2020, when he caught five passes on eight targets for 81 yards and two touchdowns (one from Mayfield and one from Landry) and rushed twice for 73 yards and a touchdown. His 50-yard rushing TD on an end around sealed the Browns' victory, and they wound up needing all 11 of their regular-season wins to make the playoffs for the first time since 2002.
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Beckham's best statistical season as a Browns player unfolded amid dysfunction during Freddie Kitchens' lone year as head coach in 2019. Playing through the core muscle injury, Beckham appeared in all 16 games and caught 74 of 133 targets for 1,035 yards and four touchdowns and rushed three times for 10 yards.
Late in the same season, Beckham laughed off but didn't deny reports by Jay Glazer of Fox Sports and Charles Robinson of Yahoo Sports that stated he had told some opponents “come get me” out of Cleveland.
Well, it'll soon be time for other teams to come get Beckham because his days with the Browns have ended.
Nate Ulrich can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.