ORLANDO, Fla. -- The speculation is so rampant it's not even being whispered at this point. The Giants are publicly negotiating with Odell Beckham Jr. through rumors and non-denials about trading the superstar wide receiver. John Mara is pretty obviously sick of Beckham's shenanigans. Pat Shurmur was terse, at best. And Dave Gettleman said he wouldn't answer any Odell Beckham questions before answering Odell Beckham questions with a host of platitudes.
"He's on the team," Gettleman said, declining to talk about whether Beckham would continue to be on the team and then noting, multiple times, that "you don't quit on talent."
Except history says otherwise for Gettleman. Not that he doesn't like talented players, but he is unafraid to ship someone out of town if they are not fitting in with his structure and philosophy. Gettleman pointed out in a prepared statement before his press conference that it's his job as GM to create an environment designed to foster productivity from his coaches and players.
That involves both fit from a football perspective and from a personnel perspective.
Everyone is available in 2018's NFL, as evidenced by New York's southbound shipping of recently extended pass rusher Jason Pierre-Paul. If Dave Gettleman is willing to eat $15 million on JPP's deal, he's more than willing to get market value back for a wide receiver who has become almost as well known for his on- and off-field shenanigans as he has for his bend-it-like, highlight-reel catches.
And don't forget Gettleman's proclivity for shipping out, ahem, talented players while serving as GM of the Panthers. Gettleman released franchise icon Steve Smith, who went on to average over 68 yards per game for the Ravens over the next three years. Josh Norman had his franchise tag rescinded out of nowhere when contract talks went south; the Panthers would eventually get a comp pick for the move, but let's pretend the secondary didn't suffer as a result.
There's a clear precedent here: if the talent starts to become a big pain in Gettleman's "big cheeks" (his words), they can and will be shipped out of town. So where could Beckham land if the Giants decide to trade him?
Two obvious suitors -- the Browns and Rams -- stand out.
CBS Sports' Pete Prisco reported on CBS Sports HQ Tuesday that he's "heard the Rams are interested."
Cleveland has been aggressive this offseason, has tons of draft picks and could use another wide receiver to pair with Jarvis Landry. It is difficult to imagine OBJ agreeing to play in Cleveland, a slightly less marketable destination than New York. But the Browns have money, too, and could conceivably get him at least close to his preferred $20 million per year demand.
The Rams make the most sense, though. L.A. is maybe even more marketable than New York for what Beckham does, and the relaxed media environment on the West Coast would be a welcome respite for Beckham after the microscope of the Big Apple.
Les Snead's been hyper-aggressive this offseason when it comes to trading players. The Rams added Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib in trades. They also shipped out Robert Quinn and, most notably, sent Alec Ogletree to the Giants. Snead and Gettleman have recently worked together to strike a deal.
The Rams have assets that would make sense in a potential trade. The No. 23 pick overall isn't enough to satisfy Giants fans in a straight swap for Odell Beckham, but it's not as far off as you might think. Percy Harvin, a wideout who was a former first-round pick in a disgruntled contract situation with the team who drafted him, was shipped from Minnesota to Seattle in exchange for a first-round pick (No. 25 overall) plus a future mid-round pick and a seventh in 2013.
No one is comparing Harvin and Beckham as players; Beckham is better and would fetch more in a deal. Two first-round picks for an unsigned Beckham is steep, but the Rams should feel confident they'd only be giving up two picks outside the top 20. We'll assume Los Angeles doesn't crater next year and have Snead/McVay shove in to get an elite wideout.
So how about this:
- Rams get Odell Beckham, who agrees to a long-term deal
- Giants get 2018 first-round pick (No. 23), 2019 first-round pick and 2018 sixth-round pick (No. 194 overall)
Fans of New York's football team would probably be less than enthused about the swap. It would make life more difficult in 2018, and whatever wide receiver they get at No. 23 probably won't end up being 50 percent of OBJ. But if the Giants cannot figure out a way to satisfy their receiver, the headache that Beckham brings may end up outweighing his talent for Dave Gettleman.
Speaking of the Rams ... they're terrifying
Imagine teleporting back to the 2016 offseason and explaining to someone the Rams would be the chic pick to win the NFC, not only because of their explosive offense but because they managed to combine two of the most abjectly terrifying human beings in the NFL onto a single defensive line.
Jeff Fisher would probably be pretty excited. Don't tell him the rest of the story. Which is this: in the span of less than two years, since Los Angeles dumped Fisher, Sean McVay has transformed not just this roster but this franchise into one of the trendiest preseason Super Bowl picks we've seen in a long while.
There are jokes about dream teams with the Rams adding Ndamukong Suh, but the better way to describe it might simply be to show someone a picture of those big caterpillar monsters that surged through the wormhole in the latest Avengers movie.
you know when you're watching an action movie and the heroes are fighting a monster and then all of a sudden another, equally terrifying monster appears out of nowhere and the good guys go OH S***T? thats the rams now— Mina Kimes (@minakimes) March 26, 2018
Before we get ahead of ourselves, some concerns: how are the Rams going to generate pressure from the edge, and what exactly will Suh's role be in the defense when he essentially plays a similar position as Donald?
McVay answered the latter at the coaches' breakfast on Tuesday.
"Ndamukong is going to go into it in our base defense, he's going to play the nose, actually," McVay said. "When you get into some of your four-down fronts, you'll still see him line up as a [3-technique], you'll see him line up as a shade on top of the center. Aaron Donald will still play the 3-technique in our base defensive structures."
So essentially the Rams will plug Suh in the middle, with Donald and Michael Brockers lined up on either side. For a division with three other teams who are not stout on the offensive line, it's a pretty terrifying prospect.
Wade Phillips approves.
March 26, 2018
But, again, outside linebacker is a weird spot here.
Robert Quinn was traded to the Dolphins this offseason. Connor Barwin is a free agent. The depth chart consists of Matt Longacre, Samson Ebukam, Carlos Thompson, Garrett Sickels and Ejuan Price. Longacre, entering his fourth year, actually recorded 5.5 sacks lat year, while Ebukam, a fourth-round pick in 2017, flashed at times last season en route to recording two sacks.
Maybe it doesn't matter who's on the outside with those guys up front, but it's at least a concern for a team that is projected to dominate in the NFC West. SportsLine's data shows a ridiculous jump for the Rams since the end of the 2017 season, with Los Angeles moving from a projected 10 wins to 11.5 projected wins. SportsLine gives them an absurd 93.5 percent chance of making the playoffs.
Part of that is the Cardinals and Seahawks spending the offseason not necessarily answering a lot of questions about their respective rosters, but the Rams don't look like a flash in the pan. If you started a franchise from scratch and got to pick any coach to run your team, McVay would at least be in the discussion for first overall because of his age and the work he did with Los Angeles in 2017.
Everyone would ultimately take Bill Belichick, in the same way you'd take Aaron Rodgers over Carson Wentz if you were building a roster. But expect McVay and the Rams and their dream team to be an extremely popular Super Bowl pick this year.
The Browns' plan remains up in the air
The Giants might be the most important Jenga piece in next month's draft, but the Browns still hold more little wooden pieces than anyone else. And while we know John Dorsey is going to take a quarterback, which one that will be remains very much a mystery.
It's impossible not to be wowed by Josh Allen's massive arm. Sam Darnold's excellent, rain-filled pro day only bolstered his standing as arguably this class's top quarterback, or at least the one with the best mix of ceiling and floor.
And according to Hue Jackson, Baker Mayfield, uh, makes weird noises. Or something.
Hue Jackson on Baker Mayfield: I feel like he's a Pied Piper of Oklahoma football. When he walked into the bldg, he made this sound - kind of went hee hee -- & all the players in the bldg started going hee hee and here we go. Most unbelievable thing I've ever seen. .— Tony Grossi (@TonyGrossi) March 27, 2018
Turns out, that's actually a compliment! Josh Rosen doesn't feel like he's in play with the top pick, even if he's considered the top quarterback in certain corners of the scoutosphere. That's the thing: no one can definitively say who the best quarterback is in this class, so how can the Browns?
But time is running out for them to decide. Good news is they're "close." The Browns are running out of time to really smokescreen everyone, what with the draft roughly a month away.
"I think we're very close. Yeah, I think we're close. We just haven't had the chance to be together," Jackson said at the coaches' breakfast. "I gave the staff the week off. They're vacationing. We're here at the owners meetings and we'll get together here soon and put our heads together and see what's best."
The Browns could, as John Dorsey admitted this week, still conceivably trade the pick. Here's the problem with that: even if you get three first-round picks from someone to move out of No. 1, your first pick is No. 4. There could be three quarterbacks off the board by the time you get to the podium, and Cleveland can't afford that having recently vacated the spots where Carson Wentz and Deshaun Watson were drafted.
It's QB or bust at No. 1 for Cleveland. Now we just wait to see who.
It's entirely possible Jon Gruden is purposely throwing everyone off his scent at this point, saying absurd things with the intended purpose of having people question his sanity and ability to dive back into coaching after nearly a decade as a broadcaster.
Whatever's happening, it's giving us some delightful quotables. Like his analytical DJ at Raiders practice.
Jon Gruden says the Raiders have "more analytics than probably any team in the league," then proceeds to give examples that suggest he has no idea what "analytics" means https://t.co/kp3LVPcKao pic.twitter.com/9qk2FGsHnb— Michael David Smith (@MichaelDavSmith) March 26, 2018
Or his take on replay.
Jon Gruden just said he’d like to eliminate instant replay. Thinks everything looks like a penalty in slow motion.— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) March 27, 2018
Or the haters.
#Raiders coach Jon Gruden is asked about his critics who wonder if he can adapt to the new world in football. “Who are my critics? Has anyone criticized them?” ... Later, to a different question, he says “I’m like Dorothy in that movie.” Entertaining as always.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 27, 2018
Or his philosophy on signing local guys.
Raiders signed a bunch of guys with Bay Area ties...Gruden: “ if you’re from Oakland, you have a chance to sign with the Raiders.” Ha.— Scott Bair (@BairNBCS) March 27, 2018
Gruden is going to make life much more fun in 2018.
The catch rule, fixed?
It's hard to believe, in the same offseason, Roger Goodell managed to force Jerry Jones to pay some NFL legal fees and retroactively make the infamous Dez Bryant catch from the Cowboys' brutal postseason loss actually a catch. Incredible trolling, really.
But the good news is the NFL believes it's fixed the catch rule. VP of officiating Al Riveron thinks the new rule takes care of the old problems by injecting common sense into what should and should not be a catch.
You can see a full explanation of the new rule below, but here's the tl;dr version of requirements:
- Two feet down
- A football move
Football move is pretty nebulous, but it can include stretching or reaching for the line to gain, or a third step. I asked Riveron about the rule on Tuesday morning and I think this is important: control and having two feet down at the same time is not a requirement. Once you get control, you can then establish two feet down.
NFL owners have unanimously approved a simplified catch rule.— NFL (@NFL) March 27, 2018
Here are the changes coming in 2018. pic.twitter.com/pvhzhRu9Vm
While it's great news that the archaic way of doing business has been thrown out the window, there's going to be plenty of confusion when it comes to "a football move" in 2018. Bank on it. Just be glad common sense is starting to prevail.
Here comes targeting
Unfortunately there might be another issue that causes consternation for fans. The NFL snuck a rule in on Tuesday in which any player who initiates contact by lowering his head can be penalized. And any player who does so may be ejected, without said contact being flagrant.
Or as you may know it from college football: targeting.
College football instituted targeting to make the game safer and, by and large, it seems to have worked. But the first year with targeting was a hot mess, and we've seen a lot of issues in terms of officials flagging and throwing out players in spots that didn't warrant it.
The NFL says anyone who lowers their head and initiates contact is going to be flagged. But how is this going to work in a situation like Tom Brady trying a quarterback sneak?
How strict is the NFL going to be on this new rule? On this Tom Brady quarterback sneak, he lowers his head and makes contact with the hand of the defensive lineman. Is that now a penalty? If so the sport of football has just changed dramatically. pic.twitter.com/qWxuK5yEAH— Michael David Smith (@MichaelDavSmith) March 27, 2018
The NFL tried to shut the door on a major controversy by changing the catch rule and might have opened up an entirely different one.