The Cleveland Browns scored an important victory on Sunday, a bounceback performance a week after being trounced by the Pittsburgh Steelers. Most significant was the fact that Baker Mayfield carried the team through the game after struggling early, and the Browns and Bengals exchanged five go-ahead touchdown passes in the fourth quarter—an NFL record.
But that victory, which sent the Browns to 5-2 on the season, came with a hefty price, as it cost them their number one receiver, Odell Beckham, for the remainder of the season. As I wrote yesterday, there were concerns that he sustained a significant injury. MRIs subsequently confirmed the worst: a torn ACL.
Cleveland gave up first- and third-round picks, plus former first-round pick Jabrill Peppers, in order to acquire Beckham and his substantial contract via trade last March. He caught 74 passes for 1035 yards and four touchdowns in his first season with the team, playing through a groin injury.
Through the first six games of the 2020 season, he caught 23 passes for 319 yards and three touchdowns, numbers that were still not great, but far from terrible, and were trending a bit upward. He suffered his latest injury trying to run down a defender after intercepting the ball on his lone target in the game.
The Browns went on to win 37-34, the game-winning catch coming to Donovan Peoples-Jones, who is not exactly a household name. In all, Mayfield completed 22 of 28 pass attempts for 297 yards and a career-high five touchdown passes. He had only thrown more than three touchdowns in a game once before.
Rashard Higgins was the team’s leading receiver in the game, catching six passes for 110 yards, while Jarvis Landry caught five passes for 48 yards. Somehow, neither of them were on the receiving end of those five touchdown passes.
Without Beckham, and with Nick Chubb on the mend, it’s likely that the Browns will further increase their presence as a run-first team. Kevin Stefanski is already an offensive coach who prefers two-tight end sets, and they have three in Austin Hooper, David Njoku, and rookie Harrison Bryant, all of whom they utilize.
Of note when it concerns Beckham is that his injury all but assures that the Browns will not be able to move him except via trade. He had injury guarantees in his contract, including nearly $13 million for 2021 that will become fully guaranteed on the third day of the new league year.
Odell Beckham is set to earn $15.75 million in total compensation next year from the #Browns. Of that, $12.971 million is guaranteed for injury and converts to a full guarantee if he’s on the roster the third day of the league year.
— Mike Garafolo (@MikeGarafolo) October 26, 2020
If they want to move on from him, they will have to find a team willing to take on his substantial contract and possibly even acquire him while he is still recovering from a torn ACL. Chances are, they would have to sell low.