The big moves that the Cleveland Browns made this offseason were on the defensive side of the ball, both in free agency and in the draft. But they certainly expect to get a boost on offense as well, after spending most of last season without former Pro Bowl wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., who tore his ACL in the first half of the season.
“About a month ago I would have said that he looks very, very good, and I know after speaking with him that he feels even better”, Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield told reporters yesterday about one of his top targets. “So I’ll let you guys see that for yourself”.
Cleveland doesn’t open training camp until next week, but Mayfield spoke at a youth football camp he is hosting, according to the Akron Beacon Journal. Author Nate Ulrich also notes that Beckham himself is set to host his own camp on the weekend, anticipating that we will see video of him running around, which will obviously be dissected to try to ascertain how his knee is doing.
The Browns first acquired Beckham via trade from the New York Giants in 2019, giving up first- and third-round draft picks, and starting safety (and former first-round pick) Jabrill Peppers in the process. He did post a 1,000-yard season that year, but he was only limited to six-plus games last year, catching 23 passes for 319 yards and three touchdowns.
Overall, the offense continued to do about as well with him as it did without him, which has led some to speculate that they would be better off without him, a theory that the Browns’ offensive coordinator dismissed out of hand, to what should be nobody’s surprise.
He pairs with Jarvis Landry as the team’s top two wideouts, with Rashard Higgins and Donovan Peoples-Jones accounting for the rest of the top of the depth chart. The offensive skill positions are rounded out by tight ends Austin Hooper and David Njoku, and running backs Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt.
Over the course of his first three seasons in the NFL from 2014 to 2016, Beckham caught 288 passes for 4,122 yards and 35 touchdowns in 43 games. He was averaging 107 catches for 1,534 yards and 13 touchdowns per 16 games during that run.
Will the Browns ever actually get that sort of production out of him? Injuries have significantly hindered his ability to produce since then, and he’s hardly crossed the 1,000-yard mark, though he managed to do so while only playing 12 games in 2018. He hasn’t had more than six touchdowns since then, but, again, he’s also missed 25 games.