In Enemy Territory: Life After Beckham? By Vincent Zahler
Don't be surprised if the Giants don't go above and beyond to retain the player that has been breaking franchise and league records as well as the necks of fans due to being a human highlight reel from moment he stepped on the field as member of Big Blue. During the 2014 and 2015 seasons, the team was virtually unwatchable with the exception of one Odell Beckham Jr. He alone made the team relevant despite the teams inability to be competitive. His remarkable route running, athleticism, and vice grip hands helped carry the Giants to their first playoff appearance since Super Bowl 46. On top of all that, he was a key piece in pulling Eli out of the abyss that was his 2013 27 interception season.
There is a downside however. OBJ has made about as many headlines getting into physical altercations with opposing players as well as sideline equipment as he has making electrifying plays. He's also provided more than his share of distractions to the team as teammates ranging from backup lineman like Bobby Hart to Eli have had to put time aside to talk sense into him in order to keep from getting into further trouble and setting the team back with more penalty yards. Just recently he begun to make waves by skipping off-season workouts in protest as the possibility of a new contract is coming in to play and he's surely expecting to become the highest paid receiver in history which his performance absolutely justifies. While locking him up long-term seems like the obvious decision here, who knows what giving a boatload of guaranteed money to guy who mentally wasn't there in the most important game of his life in Lambeau as he who makes circus catches look routine, proceeded to drop multiple catchable but critical balls. The Giants have struggled to keep him check despite him having little power against the team. We all saw what happened when the Minnesota Vikings handed over the largest contract ever to an emotionally unstable but historically great talent in Randy Moss. Moss proceeded to rack up staggering numbers while the team failed to make the postseason the next 2 seasons and when they finally did in 2004, Moss had his worst season and had more than one incident where he effectively abandoned his team. Needless to say, it would seem as though giving that level of power to someone who was "me first" as opposed to "team first" regardless of ability was a mistake. This is especially the case in terms of receivers. Not since Amani Toomer have the Giants kept a receiver with positive results for 5 years or more. Especially since Jerry Reese took over as GM, the brass of the Giants have viewed wide receivers and tight ends as rather easily replaceable personnel pieces. While due to that approach, they have experienced more than their share of extreme ups and downs in their passing offense, it has also paid dividends in not tying up the cap to quite possibly the position with the most unpredictable as well is inconsistent production. The few times in the post-Toomer era that the franchise has gone forward with securing receivers longterm with lucrative contracts, it's backfired. Plaxico Burress: shoots himself in leg before even completing a full season under a new contract. Victor Cruz: blows out his knee just 6 games into a new contract and never returned to form. Jeremy Shockey: Becomes highest paid tight end in history, follows up with 1 pro bowl season and then breaks his leg only to watch the offense instantly become better without him. Traded months later. Now let's take a look at the times when the team brass didn't break the bank to keep receivers/tight ends and allowed them to go elsewhere. Steve Smith: never fully recovered from knee injury, flamed out in Philly and St Louis. Kevin Boss: faceplanted in Oakland and never fully recovered from concussions in Kansas City. Mario Manningham: barely flashed at all in San Francisco before blowing out his knee. Hakeem Nicks: production dropped by 50% the following year and had no choice but to come crawling back later. In this past draft, the Giants surprised many by selecting a "tight end" in Evan Engram who never blocked in college and is far more comparable to Tampa Bay's Mike Evans or their own Brandon Marshall than the likes of Cincinnati's Tyler Eifert or Carolina's Greg Olsen. The team already had 2 tight ends who decent receivers but couldn't block yet they selected another "tight end" who looks more the part of a prototypical #1 wide receiver. Even after the draft, their have been conflicting reports from within the organization on how the team will use their new top draft pick. Some are claiming to make him their new "move" tight end while others are claiming to make him a complete tight end. The truth is probably something different. The truth may very be that the Giants are already planning on life after Beckham and need a talented player waiting in the wings to take his place once his contract runs out and the Giants offer him a "team friendly" with hope that OBJ would be willing to take a hometown discount. The track record of the New York Giants regarding receivers would more than suggest that they may not think twice about letting OBJ walk upon entering free agency. Of course, much of that may hinge on what Evan Engram does. They have attempted this move before when they selected Reuben Randle who's closest player comparison was Hakeem Nicks who was nearing the end of his contract and was in expectation of a lucrative new deal. Unfortunately for the Giants, Randle flashed but never panned out and has since fallen out of the league. Expect history to repeat itself unless OBJ shows an unexpected turnaround in terms of maturity and willingness to accept what most likely will be a low-ball offer when Beckham enters the final year of his contract.