On Wednesday, the first day of the 2019 business year for the NFL, its two New York franchises made it clear they are headed in different directions.
The Jets are rising. The Giants are falling. One signed a superstar. One traded a superstar.
Just imagine what the talk radio buzz in the Big Apple will be like for the next day, maybe week, perhaps month, conceivably year.
The Giants traded receiver Odell Beckham, Jr., a transcendent talent with a dubious personality, to the Cleveland Browns for their first-round pick in 2019 (17th overall), their second third-round pick (95th overall) and safety Jabrill Peppers.
The Jets signed nomadic running back Le’Veon Bell, who took the 2018 season off in a contract dispute with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Both transactions will be finalized at 4 p.m. EST when the league’s new financial year officially begins.
The Beckham trade comes on the heels of the two other moves that seem to signify that the Giants are looking to the future. The allowed Pro Bowl free safety Landon Collins to leave (he signed with the rival Washington Redskins) and the dealt their top tackler, linebacker Olivier Vernon, to the Browns for offensive lineman Kevin Zeitler.
Does trading OBJ matter? During his five seasons with the Giants, the team is 25-34 when he’s played and has averaged 22.6 points. In contrast, the Giants have won just six of their 21 games he’s missed and their offense has averaged 18.5 points.
In Cleveland, the OBJ, a three-time Pro Bowl pick, will team with former LSU teammate Jarvis Landry on the end money end of throws from quarterback Baker Mayfield, the 2018 Heisman Trophy winner.
The Giants have no one even close to replicating the production they are losing by dealing Beckham. He leaves with 390 receptions for 5,476 yards and 44 touchdowns in 59 games. He has averaged 14 yards per catch.
Although the Giants have toyed with the idea of trading Beckham for the last two years, they also signed him to a five-year deal last August, valued at $98.5 million, that made him the highest paid receiver in the NFL at the time. General manager Dave Gettleman said as recently as last week that the team didn’t sign him with the intention of trading him.
However, the Giants, who won only three games in 2017, sucked again (5-11) in 2018 and Beckham did a number of things off-the-field that angered ownership and convinced them they’d be better off without him. They obviously were anxious to do so because he cost them $21 million for just 12 games in those two seasons and the trade adds $16 million in dead money to their salary cap.
After the deal came down, Beckham told NFL Network’s Kimberly Jones shortly leaving New York is “bittersweet, but it is what it is. It’s life. At this point, I have no idea what to think. I’m trying to process it right now.”
And what of the Cleveland Browns now in the AFC North? After winning just one game in the 2016 and 2017 seasons combined, they are loading up to take on the Steelers, Baltimore Ravens and Cincinnati Bengals after rebuilding to 7-8-1 last season.
Imagine the team they will field next season: Mayfield, Beckham, Landry, running backs Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt, defensive linemen Myles Garrett and Sheldon Richardson, Vernon and cornerback Denzel Ward.
As for Bell and the Jets, the halfback will sign a four-year deal for $52.5 million that will include $35 million guaranteed. This is exactly what Bell was hoping to receive when he made his controversial decision to step away from the Steelers last year to preserve his health and maximize his desirability.
Bell’s average $13.25 salary million would mean Todd Gurley ($14.37 million) of the Los Angeles Rams is the only back in the league making more. Is he worth it to the Jets, considering his documented problems with drug and substance abuse?
They ranked 26th in the league in rushing and 29th in total yards last season (4-12) and had only two backs gain more than 100 yards in a game only twice last season. One of them was for a franchise-record 219 yards against the Denver Broncos by Isaiah Crowell, but the faded thereafter and is expected to be released by the end of the week.
Bell hit the left lane in 2014 with 2,215 yards from scrimmage and 11 touchdowns. He has 7,996 yards from scrimmage in 62 career games. You can imagine of new coach Adam Gase will try to utilize him as a runner and receiver to help young quarterback Sam Darnold in 2019.
After a strong 2017 season, in which he rushed for 1,291 yards and led the N.F.L. with 406 touches, Bell refused to accept the $14.5 million he would have made via a franchise tag and turned down a five-year, $70 million deal because of insufficient guaranteed money.
Bell has averaged 128.9 total yards per game over the last five seasons, the most for a back over the first five seasons of a career since the merger in 1970.
“I’m back in green baby,” tweeted Bell, who played collegiate at Michigan State, whose prominent uniform color is green.