Ravens-Odell Beckham Marriage Is a 'Fantasy' at This Point
The New York Giants and all-world wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. are heading for a showdown, and one of the other 31 NFL teams stand to benefit.
Wide receiver-starved Ravens fans want to know if it will be Baltimore.
So, yeah, it wouldn't be surprising if the Ravens at least checked out the situation. But "fantasy" is the perfect word to describe a Ravens-OBJ marriage at this point.
Based on his comments this weekend, Giants Owner John Mara appears to be reaching his breaking point with Beckham. The five-year veteran is arguably the best receiver in the league, but his immaturity has led to headaches for the franchise. His antics range from sideline tantrums to a touchdown celebration that mimicked a dog urinating. Beckham has made it clear he wants to become the highest-paid player, not wide receiver, in the league.
A video recently surfaced with Beckham in a Paris hotel with a model and possibly drugs, and Mara was asked about it at the owners meetings in Florida.
"I’m tired of answering questions about Odell's behavior and what the latest incident is," Mara said Sunday. "I think he knows what we expect of him, and now it's up to him."
Asked if Beckham will be on the team next year, Mara responded, "We're certainly not shopping him, if that's what you're asking. When you're coming off a season when you're 3-13 and played as poorly as we played, I wouldn't say anybody's untouchable."
Media members translate his comments to mean the Giants are open to listening to trade offers. And with all 32 teams convened at the Ritz-Carlton Grande Lakes Resort in Florida this week, that makes it mighty convenient to float some offers.
How much will a trade cost?
The New York Daily News reports the Giants' asking price is a first-round pick, plus.
"The ‘plus’ is the negotiable part, but the meaning is that it likely won't require two first-round picks to get it done," wrote Pat Leonard.
In the video below, "Speak for Yourself" analyst Jason Whitlock says that's a low enough asking price that teams could actually counter with a second-rounder because they know the Giants really want to unload Beckham.
A second-rounder may sound low for one of the best receivers in the league, but the San Francisco 49ers just recently traded a second-round pick for their franchise quarterback – a position that an organization can build around unlike a receiver.
There are a lot of moving parts beyond the trade price tag, which is significant in and of itself.
Don't forget that OBJ is demanding a new contract before he sets foot on the field in 2018, whether it's with the Giants or any other team, according to the NFL Network's Ian Rapoport. Beckham is currently scheduled to play under the $8.46 million fifth-year option on his rookie deal.
Pittsburgh Steelers' Antonio Brown is the highest-paid receiver right now at $17 million a year. Beckham will certainly surpass that, and some are talking about $20 million a year. In comparison, quarterback Joe Flacco's average salary $22.1 million.
The Ravens, or any other teams that may be considering Beckham, have to ask themselves whether they can put that amount of money behind a guy that is unpredictable in terms of maturity, leadership and commitment. He's also coming off missing nearly an entire season because of a broken ankle.
And even if Baltimore were to decide they wanted to pursue Beckham – and there's been no indication they do – there is the exact same problem they've faced when reaching out to every other receiver that they've been reportedly connected to, including Jarvis Landry, Allen Robinson, etc.
That problem is competing against other teams with more draft picks more cap space to play with.
Enter the Cleveland Browns …
Jarvis Landry Recruiting Beckham for a Reunion in Cleveland
The Ravens not landing Beckham isn't the worst-case scenario.
The worst-case scenario is what came to pass in the Landry situation. Not only was he not traded to Baltimore, but he was dealt to the division rival Cleveland Browns.
Now that Landry is a Brown, he's doing his best to repeat the nightmare scenario for Ravens fans. Landry is actively recruiting Beckham to Cleveland, where they can reunite after being teammates at LSU.
No, no, no, no, no.
Could you imagine the Ravens twice a year having to defend a Landry, Beckham, Josh Gordon trio? It would be the best receiver group in the league, hands down. Oh, and throw in David Njoku at tight end and probably running back Saquon Barkley through the draft.
The Browns have two first-round picks and three second-rounders in this year's draft, so they have the assets for a trade. Plus, they still have $58 million in cap space.
If they wanted to make this happen, they easily could.
Cameron Meredith Should Be Ravens' Priority; Has Potential to Become No. 1 Receiver
Coming out of Beckham fantasy land, a more plausible scenario is that the Ravens pursue signing one of the two restricted free agents they reportedly had in for visits last week.
Multiple outlets reported the New Orleans Saints' Willie Snead and Chicago Bears' Cameron Meredith were both brought to the Under Armour Performance Center. Meredith has been making the rounds, including his third stop in New Orleans over the weekend after meeting with the Ravens and Indianapolis Colts.
ESPN says Meredith needs to become Baltimore's next priority.
"At the NFL owners meetings this week, the Ravens need to either sign Meredith to an offer sheet or approach the Chicago Bears about a deal for the restricted free agent," the website wrote. "Meredith not only represents the best option in furthering Baltimore's offseason upgrade of the wide receiver position, he can become the pivotal piece.
"With a good combination of size and speed, Meredith has the potential to be the Ravens' No. 1 receiver."
The top receiver? That's high praise.
Meredith, 25, went undrafted in 2015, but has the physical tools that teams covet at 6-foot-3 and 207 pounds. He has speed and knows how to get open. Meredith has developed the last three years in Chicago and broke out in 2016 with 66 receptions for 888 yards and four touchdowns.
That was Meredith's only productive year, however, so he's still considered unproven. He didn't start playing receiver until his redshirt junior season at Illinois State and he's coming off an ACL tear that prevented him from playing last year.
The Bears placed an original-round tender on Meredith, which means Baltimore wouldn't have to sacrifice draft compensation if they signed him to an offer sheet. However, Chicago has the right to match whatever deal Baltimore offers, and the Bears have triple the cap space.
"The other route is a trade," ESPN wrote. "The Ravens could send a later-round pick to the Bears for Meredith. Baltimore would get a difference-making receiver at a modest price of $1.9 million, and Chicago would receive a draft pick for a player it could've lost for nothing in return."
Compensatory Picks Again Affecting Ravens' Approach to Free Agency
This should surprise nobody.
The Ravens like compensatory picks and they're making moves to ensure they get a couple in 2019.
"The Ravens weighing whether to sign a true unrestricted free agent with the impact it would have on their compensatory selections has become an annual rite of March," wrote The Baltimore Sun's Jeff Zrebiec. "And the front office's desire to secure another 2019 draft pick or two appears again to be affecting the team’s approach to free agency."
The only true unrestricted free agent Baltimore has signed is John "Smokey" Brown. Michael Crabtree was a cap casualty and doesn't count.
The Ravens lost center Ryan Jensen and wide receiver Mike Wallace. That could equate to a third- or fourth-rounder for Jensen and maybe another seventh-rounder for Wallace, but only if another free agent signs elsewhere because Brown currently cancels out Wallace.
The Ravens could lose tight end Benjamin Watson, as he's reportedly discussing a deal with the Kansas City Chiefs. Receiver Michael Campanaro could also affect the compensatory formula. If the Ravens sign a restricted free agent such as Meredith, that would not count against the formula.
"A tight end who can make plays downfield is probably the team's No. 1 need," wrote Zrebiec. "The Ravens have questions at center and right tackle and the team is still in the market for a backup quarterback and pass-catching running back. Defensively, an inside linebacker, additional cornerback depth and an interior pass rusher should all be on the wish list.
"But if the team's history is any indication, it will avoid signing any unrestricted free agent who could cost it that third- or fourth-round pick they'll likely get for the Jensen loss."
Dick Cass Wants To Do a Better Job Engaging Fans
ESPN caught up with Ravens President Dick Cass at the league meetings, and he said there's been a disconnect with fans and wants to do a better job engaging them.
"I think the conversations have been good," Cass said. "We have talked to a lot of people. I've talked a lot of people. We're trying to connect in a very direct way. But we have to find more ways to connect. You cannot connect with 71,000 people or other fans on an individual basis. We're learning and listening, and we're learning a lot."
Entering his 14th season as the team president, Cass isn't considering retirement anytime soon. He'll give Owner Steve Bisciotti at least a year's notice.
Cass told ESPN that he doesn't think the Ravens will be featured on HBO’s “Hard Knocks” this year because the Under Armour Performance Center is still under construction.
Look out for Garrett Downing's sit-down interview with Cass later today.