You may disagree with the method. But it’s hard to disagree with the result.
All signs are pointing to the Browns releasing receiver Odell Beckham Jr. Then, if no one claims the balance of his $14.5 million on waivers (all terminations after the trade deadline require exposure to waivers), Beckham becomes a free agent for the first time in his NFL career.
It gets better for OBJ. Under the CBA, he then gets to collect the balance of his salary as termination pay, to sign with another team, and to double dip, keeping the full amount of the money from both teams.
On Wednesday, Browns coach Kevin Stefanski said repeatedly that G.M. Andrew Berry is talking to Beckham’s representatives. This suggests that they’re negotiating the terms of his release.
The Browns, however, don’t have much leverage. Unless they have grounds to suspend him four weeks without pay for conduct detrimental to the team, they can’t keep him away from the team. The prerogative to suspend a player with pay ended with the 2006 labor deal; the options are to suspend the player without pay (if grounds exist for a suspension), to trade him (it’s too late for that until March), or to cut him.
By bringing things to a head on the day of the trade deadline, Beckham left the Browns without enough time to work out a trade. So if they now want him gone, they have to cut him. And if he clears waivers, he gets to pick his next team.
Of course, the Giants could claim him on waivers just for the principle of it. That’s what the late Marty Schottenheimer did in 2002, when Washington released Deion Sanders from the reserve-retired list after the trade deadline, so that he could sign with the Raiders. Sanders had retired the prior year because he didn’t want to play for Schottenheimer in D.C., and Schottenheimer had his revenge ice cold, blocking Deion’s preferred destination.
Giants co-owner John Mara or G.M. Dave Gettleman could do the same thing, forcing Beckham into an awkward spot. However, the Giants likely would have to create some cap space to pull it off; that would be too much trouble to prove a point.
Other teams could claim him. He generates excitement, sells tickets. While he may not be happy with a team that isn’t a short-list contender, he’ll have to show up or give up his pay.
Regardless of where he ends up, he picked the perfect time to force his way out of Cleveland. Now, we wait for him to be cut — and then we wait to see if he’s claimed on waivers.