By Jason Keidel
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While the summer is normally a glacial time on the sports calendar, 2017 has had its share of gaseous monologues and declarations. From Kyrie Irving’s trade demands to the profane pressers between Conor McGregor and Floyd Mayweather Jr., the hottest months of the year have felt even hotter air from our sports celebrities.
And far be it from our Big Apple stars to remain mute with all this peripheral noise.
Perhaps our biggest star in any sport, Odell Beckham Jr., joined the me-first chorus by saying that he should be the highest paid player in the NFL. Not among wide receivers. More than anyone. More than teammate Eli Manning. More than Andrew Luck or Aaron Rodgers or even Tom Brady.
Beckham made the assertion during a recent video via Uninterrupted. While he’s surely worth more than the $1.8 million he will make this year from his NFL employer, the New York Giants, Beckham should hardly cry poverty. He’s got pretty robust secondary job as pitchman for Nike, who signed Beckham to the richest NFL deal in history, worth $29 million over five years. But he still has a point when it comes to the gridiron.
Side hustles aside, Beckham is almost invaluable to the Giants on and off the gridiron. What is quantifiable is the fact that he’s off to the best start for a wide receiver in league history. Also, no receiver shoulders a larger portion of his team’s passing game than Beckham, who has become Manning’s first and second options, and somehow still gets open.
What can’t be quantified, though still quite valuable, is Beckham’s Q rating, or his PR ripples. How many folks buy his jersey or bobblehead or some tchotchke bearing his likeness? How may fans tune into Big Blue games just to see him play? How many folks click on the NFL’s Ticket Exchange to see Beckham in person? How many got a blonde Fauxhawk to become a walking billboard for the mercurial speedster?
Of course, history shows you don’t build a team around your wide receivers. Nor do all-world wideouts find many Super Bowl rings on their valued fingers. Julio Jones was about to become an exception, until he wasn’t. Antonio Brown hasn’t even played in a Super Bowl. Tom Brady is renowned for making lemonade with his second-tier wideouts. The one time Brady had a Hall of Fame caliber pass catcher, Randy Moss, he lost to the Giants in the Super Bowl.
Moss has no rings. Nor does Cris Carter, Terrell Owens, Chad Johnson or Dez Bryant. Meanwhile over 20 of the last 25 Super Bowl winners feature current or future Hall of Fame quarterbacks. (You could argue 22 if you consider Russell Wilson and Manning in that class.) Since Jerry Rice retired, how many transcendent receivers have been swathed in confetti after the final game?
As of today, Brown has the highest salary among Beckham’s peers, making $17 million this season. Let’s assume that should be Beckham’s goal, and not Manning money ($21 million).
In fairness, there’s nothing wrong with Beckham wanting to get paid and quickly. Cynics say he’s “only” 24 years old, a pup by adult standards. But by football standards, he’s in his absolute prime, especially for a wideout, and will only be this great for another four or five years, which makes his monetary window rather small. The Giants will have no issue cutting Beckham when he’s not a hot property.
Indeed, the NFL’s haunting acronym, Not For Long, speaks to the chilling apathy with which they treat its players, even its icons, taking a blowtorch to the very contracts they sign in good faith. Yet, for whatever reason, fans have no issues with billionaire owners cashing in while wrapping millionaire players in avarice. They assume rich owners, many of whom born with LearJets and helicopter pads, labored tirelessly for their share, while players are just coddled brats who won the genetic lottery, when the opposite is true. It’s the players who leave the game with mangled limbs and rattled brains swathed in CTE.
So God bless Beckham for getting paid on one end while trying to cash in on both ends. He’s worth a lot more than he’s making now. He just doesn’t deserve to make the most.
Follow Jason on Twitter at @JasonKeidel