Odell Beckham, Jr. reported to the Giants yesterday for a physical in advance of mandatory three-day minicamp, which takes place June 13-15, after skipping offseason workouts over the past two months. Beckham refuted repots that his absence was because of unhappiness with his contract when talking to the media after the first minicamp practice.
Beckham is under contract for the next two years, and the 2014 first-round pick is scheduled to make $1.839 million this season. The Giants picked up Beckham's fifth-year option in 2018 for $8.459 million.
Giants president and CEO John Mara told fans attending a town hall event last week that he wants Beckham to spend his entire career with the organization. Mara also indicated that negotiations for a new contract haven't begun, and he didn't give a timetable for contract discussions.
Beckham has outperformed his contract by a wide margin; it's hard to find a wide receiver that's ever had a better first three NFL seasons than him. He has 288 receptions (tied for first all-time), 4,122 receiving yards (second) and 35 touchdown catches (tied of fifth) in 43 games. Randy Moss is the only wide receiver with comparable production, recording 226 receptions for 4,163 yards and 43 touchdowns in 48 games during his first three seasons.
Beckham has also been one of the NFL's most productive wide receivers over the last three seasons. He is tied for fourth in receptions with former LSU teammate Jarvis Landry, a 2014 second-round pick who is entering a contract year with the Dolphins. Only Antonio Brown (Steelers), Julio Jones (Falcons) and Demaryius Thomas (Broncos) are ahead of him with 371, 323 and 306 catches, respectively. Beckham is ranked third in receiving yards behind Jones (4,873) Brown (4,816). He is tied with Brown with a league-high 35 touchdown receptions. Beckham and Brown are the only two wide receivers to be in the top five of each category since the start of the 2014 season.
The wide receiver market
Brown shook up the wide receiver market in February with a four-year extension averaging $17 million per year. Below is a chart outlining the top of the current wide receiver market:
|Name||Team||Year signed||Contract guarantees||Guaranteed fully at signing||Three-year cash flow||Average salary||Contract length|
|Antonio Brown||Steelers||2017||$19M||$19M||$48.9M||$17M||4-Yr Ext.|
|A.J. Green||Bengals||2015||$15M||$15M||$47.5M||$15M||4-Yr Ext.|
|Julio Jones||Falcons||2015||$47M||$14.25M||$47M||$14.25M||5-Yr Ext.|
|Dez Bryant||Cowboys||2015||$45M||$32M||$45M||$14M||5 Years|
|Demaryius Thomas||Broncos||2015||$43M||$35M||$43.5M||$14M||5 Years|
The guarantees in Brown and Green's deals pale in comparison to Jones, Thomas and Bryant's. Pittsburgh and Cincinnati are renowned for the vanilla structure of their contracts. The bigger deals contain a third or fifth day of the league year roster bonus in the second year. The Steelers give roster bonuses in the third year. The roster bonuses are supposed to be substitutes for additional contract guarantees.
Before Brown's deal, the wide receiver market had become stagnant. The seven-year, $113.45 million extension Calvin Johnson received from the Lions in 2012 averaging $16.2 million per year was still the salary standard for wide receivers when he abruptly retired after the 2015 season. The guarantees in Johnson's deal have yet to be topped. $53.25 million of Johnson's extension was fully guaranteed at signing, which included a $4.5 million roster bonus in his rookie contract that was payable on the same day the new deal was executed.
Johnson had an extreme amount of leverage as the second overall pick in the 2007 NFL Draft, which occurred prior to the rookie wage scale drastically reducing salaries at the top of the draft after the 2011 lockout. The Lions extended Johnson's contract because salary escalators that were customary in rookie deals for top picks back then made it virtually impossible to use a franchise tag on him and created a need to lower his 2012 salary cap number, which was slightly over $21 million. It would have been over $25 million for the Lions to franchise Johnson after his rookie contract expired.
These factors led to Johnson becoming the NFL's highest paid non-quarterback ahead of Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, who signed a seven-year, $113 million extension with $45 million in guarantees prior to the start of the 2011 regular season. The rookie contract Fitzgerald signed as the third overall pick in 2003 laid the groundwork for his veteran deals that have consistently put him at the top of the wide receiver market. Fitzgerald accepted a pay cut in 2015 to remain with the Cardinals.
Beckham or any other first-round pick are never going to have similar leverage to Johnson and Fitzgerald thanks to the rookie wage scale, regardless of his draft position.
Giants' history and leverage
The Giants haven't given a first-round pick a new deal with two years remaining on his contract, like Beckham, since Jerry Reese became senior vice president and general manager in January 2007. The last Giants first-round pick to receive an extension with so much time left on his rookie contract was Jeremy Shockey in 2005 when Reese was the team's director of player personnel. The Giants made Shockey, who was the 14th overall pick in the 2002 NFL Draft, the NFL's highest-paid tight end five weeks into the season.
Reese generally doesn't extend contracts with multiple years remaining. Quarterback Eli Manning's extensions came during his contract year. Reese did make an exception with wide receiver Plaxico Burress in 2008 when the Giants were coming off a Super Bowl victory three years into the six-year deal he signed as unrestricted free agent in 2005. The new deal put Burress' pay in the upper echelon of wide receiver salaries.
But Burress wasn't nearly as productive or accomplished as Beckham when he got his new deal. He had 209 catches for 3,227 yards and 29 touchdowns during his three seasons with the Giants. Beckham has been selected to the Pro Bowl in each of his NFL seasons and named second team All-Pro the last two years while Burress never received any such honors during his career.
The Giants have leverage with Beckham because he is under contract through the 2018 season for slightly under $10.3 million. New York could hit him with a franchise tag in 2019 and 2020, if necessary. Assuming the salary cap maintains its recent rate of growth in each of the next two years, it will be right around $195 million in 2019. Beckham's franchise tag in 2019 would be in the $17 million neighborhood. A second franchise tag in 2020, a 20 percent increase over Beckham's 2019 franchise number, would be approximately $20.4 million.
It's hard to envision a scenario where Beckham plays year-to-year under franchise tags. The Giants would be obligated to pay him around $47.7 million over the next four years using this approach.
Treatment of first-round picks with fifth-year options
First-round picks selected under the rookie wage typically don't get new contracts after three seasons. Thirteen first-round picks have gotten extensions at this juncture of their NFL tenure over the last three years.
Those that are at least as accomplished as Beckham have a good chance of getting a new deal with two years left on their rookie contract. There have been six players selected in the first round from 2011 to 2013 (Cowboys center Travis Frederick; Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green; Panthers inside linebacker Luke Kuechly; Broncos outside linebacker Von Miller; Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson; Texans defensive end J.J. Watt) who have received All-Pro honors in two of their first three years. Four of the six didn't have to play their fourth season under their rookie contract. Only Miller and Green did. Miller's six-game suspension for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy during his third year and the ACL tear he suffered later that season prompted the Broncos to take a wait-and-see approach.
Three other 2014 first-round picks besides Beckham have received such honors. Negotiations between defensive lineman Aaron Donald and the Rams are ongoing. Donald has missed Rams offseason workouts, just like Beckham did with the Giants, but also reported for mandatory minicamp. The Cowboys are expected to reach an agreement with guard Zack Martin before the regular season starts. A new deal for Raiders outside pass rusher Khalil Mack, the reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year, is on general manager Reggie McKenzie's radar. Quarterback Derek Carr is a higher signing priority for McKenzie because he is in his contract year.
The teams of those four highly accomplished players receiving extremely early extensions didn't exploit their leverage. Each player became the highest paid player (by average year salary) at his respective position.
The Texans made Watt the NFL's highest paid non-quarterback with a six-year, $100 million extension and containing almost $51.9 million in guarantees, which set a record for defensive players at the time in 2014. Kuechly became the salary standard for inside linebackers in 2015 on his five-year, $61.795 million extension, which has $34.36 million of guarantees. Bobby Wagner's $10.75 million average per year in the four-year extension he received from the Seahawks weeks earlier had been the inside linebacker salary benchmark. Frederick supplanted Alex Mack (Falcons), whose deal averaged $9 million per year, at the top of the center pay scale last preseason on his six-year, $54.6 million extension with slightly more than $28 million of guarantees.
The five-year extension Peterson signed in 2014 averaging $14.01 million per year put him just ahead of Richard Sherman's $14 million per year with the Seahawks. Peterson's $48 million of guarantees were the most in a cornerback contract until Josh Norman received $50 million last year in his five-year, $75 million deal with the Redskins. The structure of the guarantees and the cash flow is more team friendly because two years were remaining on their contracts than it would have been if the players had been in contract years, unrestricted free agents or under franchise tags.
What Beckham's contract could look like
An extension signed this year would likely make Beckham the NFL's highest-paid wide receiver (by average yearly salary) in the $17.5 million per year neighborhood and establish a new wide receiver record for overall guarantees by topping Johnson's $53.25 million based on the treatment of Beckham's peer group.
The Giants' challenging salary cap situation shouldn't be an impediment to a new contract either. There will be approximately $6.75 million of cap space left once first-round pick Evan Engram signs. It may require Beckham converting some portion of his 2017 base salary into signing bonus while a small amount of the remaining cap space is also used to augment his bonus money. Kuechly, Peterson and Watt received $19 million, $15.36 million and $10 million signing bonuses after lowering their respective first-year base salaries by $1.1 million, $2 million and $1 million, respectively. Beckham could receive a $15 million signing bonus, which would use $1.9 million of the existing cap space, by converting $1.1 million of his current base salary into a signing bonus. Only $900,000 of cap space would be used with the same salary conversion if Beckham were to receive a $10 million signing bonus instead.
Beckham's cash flow for his first three years would be approximately $40.3 million through the 2019 season. This would essentially be $30 million of new money through Beckham's first new contract year considering he is already under contract for the next two years for slightly under $10.3 million. That would be consistent with the $29 million defensive end Olivier Vernon earned during the first year of the five-year, $85 million deal with $52.5 million of guarantees he signed during free agency in 2016. Beckham would likely have a difficult time exceeding Bryant's $32 million fully guaranteed at signing because of his contract status. By comparison, Vernon had $40 million fully guaranteed at signing given he had multiple suitors while on the open market.
Beckham shouldn't want to give up more than five new years on a contract extension because he would run the risk of his contract becoming outdated over time with a contract that expires any later than after the 2023 season. The Giants would likely have Beckham locked up long-term at the cheapest possible rate by doing a deal this year because it usually cost teams more in the long run by waiting with great players. Watt is a perfect illustration of this concept. If Watt had played his fourth NFL season in 2014 under his rookie deal, the Texans would have been forced to pay him more than Ndamukong Suh, who signed a six-year, $114.375 million contract averaging slightly more than $19 million per year with the Dolphins in 2015 as a free agent, or face the prospect of using an exclusive defensive end franchise tag on him last offseason.
Beckham's demands would surely increase with another strong season, but he would also be incurring the risk of injury and poor performance. DeAndre Hopkins, who is in his contract year with the Texans, and/or Mike Evans, the seventh overall pick in the 2014 draft by the Buccaneers, signing new deals comparable to Brown's average yearly salary could cause Beckham to increase his demands. Beckham playing his fourth year under his rookie deal also increases the likelihood that his agent uses the average of franchising his client twice, which could be approximately $18.7 million per year, as a framework for a long-term deal next offseason.