In his inaugural season in the NFL in 2014, Odell Beckham Jr. stole the show for the New York Giants. The LSU wide receiver racked up 1,305 yards and scored 12 touchdowns, earning him a Pro Bowl selection. He became the first Giant to be named to the Pro Bowl in their rookie season since Jeremy Shockey in 2002.

In his sophomore season, Beckham tortured the league. He had 1,450 yards and 13 touchdowns.

Since, Beckham has fallen off a cliff.

From 2016 through the 2019 NFL season, Beckham caught a total of 23 touchdown passes and played a total of 48 out of the possible 64 games. In his first two seasons, he played 27 out of the possible 32 games and scored 25 touchdowns. 

In his first two seasons, Beckham averaged 1,377.5 yards per season. In his last four, he’s averaged 939 yards per season. Since 2016, if you take away the 2017 season where Beckham only played in four games due to an ankle injury, he’s averaged 1,151 yards per season, a clear dropoff from his early days in the league.

After signing a five-year, $95 million dollar contract extension with the Giants in 2018, Beckham was traded to the Browns less than a year later. Then Browns General Manager John Dorsey gave up his first-round and third-round picks in the 2019 draft, defensive end Julius Peppers and guard Kevin Zeitler for Beckham and defensive end Olivier Vernon. The move was praised by the media and seen as the start of a “new era” in Cleveland.

Yet, Beckham’s arrival has done nothing but hamper the Browns.

Last season, Beckham did finish with 1,035 yards, but he only had four touchdowns, and his influence on the offense was affecting its output. Beckham was force-fed the ball by quarterback Baker Mayfield.

Last season, in games where Beckham had at least six targets last season, the Browns were 6-9. The only game Beckham did not have six targets (five), the Browns defeated the Bengals 27-19. In games where Beckham had double digit targets, the Browns were 3-3. 

While the win-loss record when Beckham was targeted at least 10 times doesn’t look awful, the stats don’t provide the whole story. 

The wins came against a depleted Jets team, who had to play quarterback Luke Falk due to injuries to Trevor Siemian and Sam Darnold (Falk isn’t currently on an NFL team and was a sixth-round pick by the Tennessee Titans in 2018), the Bills and the Steelers, who were ranked third-worst in total offense in 2019. The offense scored a total of 63 points in those three wins, averaging 21 points a game. The league averaged 22.8 points a game in 2019.

In Beckham’s first six seasons in the league, his offenses have only been in the Top 10 twice (his first two seasons). Since 2016, his offenses haven’t been ranked higher than 17 in total offense. 

For comparison’s sake, in Mayfield’s rookie season (2018), the Browns ranked No. 13 in total offense where Beckham’s Giants were ranked the No. 17 offense. In 2019 (Beckham’s first season in Cleveland), the Browns offense was ranked No. 22 in the league, and the Giants were one spot below at 23. The Giants actually averaged 0.4 points more per game than the Browns last season (23.4 vs 22.9). 

The numbers are stunning. You would think with an all-time talent at wide receiver at your disposal, your offense would put up big numbers, but Beckham’s offenses have struggled since 2016, and it is not completely on the quarterback.

At the end of his rookie season, Mayfield finished with 27 touchdown passes compared to 14 interceptions in 14 games played, earning Rookie of the Year honors by Pro Football Writers of America. In his sophomore season with Beckham as his No. 1 target, Mayfield finished with 22 touchdowns and 21 interceptions in 16 games, and a lot of analysis in the media labeled him a bust

Through two games this season, Mayfield has three touchdowns and two interceptions, including a two touchdown, one interception night in Week 2 against the Bengals on Thursday Night Football. Mayfield’s passer rating in the Bengal game was 110.6 compared to 65.0 in the opener against Baltimore.

So, what was the difference between the two games? Beckham’s targets.

In the Baltimore game Week 1, Beckham was targeted 10 times, catching only three balls for 22 yards. In the Cincinnati game Week 2, Beckham was targeted six times, catching four balls for 74 yards, including a 43-yard strike from Mayfield for a touchdown. If you take away the 43-yard score, Beckham was targeted nine times, catching only three passes for 31 yards.

The fact is Beckham’s production is not enough to warrant his big contract. In the next couple of seasons, the Browns are going to need to lock up Denzel Ward, No. 4 overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, and potentially Mayfield to long-term deals, and the money just isn’t going to be there if Beckham is still on the team, assuming the salary cap goes down to due COVID-19. The easiest solution for new Browns General Manager Andrew Berry is to trade Beckham and let Mayfield distribute the ball to his other playmakers like he did in 2018.

Browns fans: I know it’s tough to hear, but the reality is Beckham’s time in Cleveland may be nearing an end, but trust me, it will be for the betterment of the team moving forward. Sometimes, a great talent doesn’t equal production, and that’s what has happened with Beckham in Cleveland.

It looks like Dorsey’s trade was a miss. Now, can Berry right Dorsey’s wrong?

Brandon Lewis is a columnist. Email him at blewis47@kent.edu.

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