September 24, 2021

Will This Be Odell Beckham Jr.'s Last Dance With Cleveland Browns?

Odell Beckham Jr. is officially back. 

The Browns' star receiver will make his season debut this week against the Bears. He hasn't played since suffering a torn ACL against the Bengals in Week 7 of last season. Beckham's return could not have come at a better time as the Browns, who were already thin in the receiver room, lost Jarvis Landry to an MCL sprain.

Speaking of Landry and Beckham, this may be the last chance the former LSU teammates have at winning together in Cleveland. With the Browns set to spend a lot of money elsewhere, including Myles Garrett's $29.175 million cap hit set to take place in 2023, there won't be enough money to go around. The Browns have some really tough decisions to make after this season and letting Beckham and/or Landry go might be one of them.

New Beginnings

In 2018, Beckham signed a five-year. $95 million contract extension with the New York Giants. After months of trade rumors following his extension, he was dealt to the Browns in 2019. The Browns were coming off Baker Mayfield's rookie season and had a lot of hype heading into the 2019 season.

The 2019 season was an absolute disaster and despite both Beckham and Landry eclipsing the 1,000-yard receiving mark, the Browns finished 6-10, and fired first-year head coach Freddie Kitchens.

Rumors were flying in the middle of the season that Beckham was unhappy in Cleveland and wanted out. Even with Beckham denying the rumored trade requests, it seemed like the marriage between the Browns and Beckham would be short-lived, as most good things in Cleveland are.

New Year, New Browns

The Browns decided to keep Beckham heading into 2020 and new head coach Kevin Stefanski declared that he would be a significant part of the offense. Well, in the first game against the Ravens, Beckham caught three passes for 22 yards, but he was targeted 10 times by Mayfield. Over the next two games, Beckham would catch eight passes for 133 yards and a touchdown in back-to-back wins.

In Week 4, Cleveland traveled to Dallas to take on Beckham's former NFC East rival. He had a pretty decent game.

A Lost Season

Despite finishing 11-5 last season, C]leveland was without their star receiver for the second half of the season. Following a Mayfield interception, Beckham tore his ACL trying to chase down Darius Phillips.

He finished the season with just 23 receptions for 319 yards and three touchdowns. An offseason full of speculation about his role with the team and if he was "holding Baker Mayfield back" led to more trade rumors.

However, with Beckham and Landry still on the right side of 30, the Browns decided to run it back with the same squad that almost took out the Chiefs in the playoffs. Even though the Browns are excited to bring back such a talented player like Beckham, it may be for one final time. 

The Last Dance

Beckham is signed through 2023, but the Browns have the opportunity to let him go next season with no financial repercussions. His $15 million cap hit next season may handcuff the Browns when it comes time to start giving out extensions to a couple of franchise cornerstones, though. With Mayfield, Denzel Ward, and Wyatt Teller all looking for new contracts, it might not make sense to keep both Beckham and Landry on the team.

With Landry being the first piece in the rebuild, it is likely that they would rather let Beckham walk, especially considering how good they have looked without him.

If all goes as planned this season, then we might be having a different conversation. The Browns have Super Bowl aspirations in 2021 and beyond. If they were to make a deep run in the AFC this season, one would think they would try to keep this talented team together for years. 

If the emergence of Donovan Peoples-Jones, Anthony Schwartz, and Demetric Felton continues this season, Landry and Beckham might become a luxury rather than a necessity. 

No matter what the Browns decide to do in the offseason, they are going to ride with the team they have. Now that Beckham is available to play, it is time to possibly pull the Ferrari out of the garage one last time. Everything was in place for the Browns to make a Super Bowl run before the season, and now that they have their best playmaker back, the Browns are ready to rock and roll.

When Landry comes back from his MCL sprain, which could be as early as Week 6, the most popular friendship in the city of Cleveland will look to have one final shot of winning together.

Photo: Getty Images