By Jason Keidel
» More Columns
Now that the pseudo-saga has ended, the Giants can exhale.
Indeed, Odell Beckham, Jr. has reported to minicamp, to the team, to the latest chessboard of offseason activities that freckle the NFL calendar between April and August.
Terms like “mandatory” are pliable, especially when it comes to the quality of the player, most of whom are subject to the elastic moods of management. But all agree this one really is mandatory. It’s minicamp week. If you don’t show up for OTAs, you might arch some eyebrows. You skip minicamp, your paycheck gets pinched, to the tune of about $80,000, according to the Daily News.
And as ESPN’s Adam Schefter first reported, Beckham’s absence up to this point was directly tied to his salary, which felt fairly obvious.
Can anyone blame Beckham? Even if he’s not so ticked off about his pay, he’s surely not in any hurry to get on a gridiron, to risk a twisted knee or folded ankle, or anything that could delay or curtail his first real contract. The young man will make $1.8 million this year from Big Blue; or about one-third of what he gets paid by Nike. The sneaker behemoth signed Beckham to a five-year, $29 million deal (which could mushroom to $48 million with incentives). The Giants, of course, will honor the fifth year of his rookie deal, which will pay him $8 million. Assuming nothing happens between now and then.
And while it’s hard to just shelve the sneaker quid, it really has no bearing on his NFL pay. Or it shouldn’t, when you consider his production. In just three years, Beckham has 288 receptions, 4,122 yards, and 35 colorful touchdowns. All uber-impressive numbers. And yet they don’t properly convey his import or the energy he brings to the club. Nor do stats frame his fame, the jersey sales, the ancillary income the club enjoys from the eccentric wideout.
No matter the week or the native view of your favorite team, Beckham is easily one of the three best receivers in the NFL, an interchangeable trinity that includes Julio Jones and Antonio Brown. But unlike Jones and Brown, Beckham is just 24, with more years, catches, scores, and TD dances in front of him.
In a sense, Beckham is a corporeal cliche, the high-strung actor who lusts for adulation as ardently as he needs the ball. He couldn’t just show up for camp, or tell a local reporter he’s happy to return. No sir. He’s tweeting and splashing his visage across all manner of social media — shirtless, of course, catching the ball in absurd contortions, none of which actually help his game. But do much for his name.
Then Beckham slips in some Instagram scripture. In a video montage, catching balls standing, running, or seated — all shirtless — he adds some mutation of Matthew 5:45: “The rain falls on the just and unjust alike.” Tip the cap to anyone who finds comfort in religion, but it’s unclear how that applies to his ability to catch a football, score a TD, or sign a proper contract. No matter, it’s all part of his tableau, accidental or intentional, to extend the cultural lineage of the great wideout.
It summons the chicken/egg debate. Are they great wideouts because they’re divas, or are they divas by dint of the position they play?
Regardless, it raises another point, a financial divide and duplicity that’s always existed, and even reaches down to we, the fans. For whatever reason, we’re good with the Mara, Rooney, Jones, or Snyder family banking billions on the greatest sport in the world. We take no issue with billionaires buying another Learjet, or building a new stadium with the help of you, the taxpayer. But when some insolent insect of a football player asks for a marginal piece of the financial pie, we are horrified.
We can even have another debate about the value of the wideout. Does anyone draft a wideout first to build a Super Bowl club? Of course not, but Beckham isn’t just a player. He’s a brand, and a business, and business is good for him and for his employer.
No matter what Beckham can squeeze out of the New York Football Giants, he’s a great football player, who is due what the market mandates. An extra million, or 10, won’t impact John Mara’s bottom line. Maybe many of us could do without all the sideshows and tangents, and Beckham has come way too close to crossing the line between the sidelines. But it’s foolish and myopic to even suggest he’s not a transcendent talent.
As the man said in the movie, “Rounders”: Pay him. Pay that man his money.
Please follow Jason on Twitter at @JasonKeidel