Thoughts on Odell Beckham’s $90 million contract

Despite all the accolades that came the way of Odell Beckham when he signed his record setting extension I kind of came away underwhelmed. I was in the group of people that thought Beckham had kind of proved he was a transcendent player and one that should really reset a market not just get a small tick up, especially in light of market changes. Sure the guarantee was incredibly strong and the best aspect of the contract but it wasn’t long ago that Beckham wanted to be the highest paid player in the NFL.  While we don’t have a full breakdown of the contract yet, we can gather enough information from the cap charges reported by Joel Corry of CBS Sports to look at the contract.

There are plenty of ways to try to benchmark contracts and I the way I like best is to compare the new money cash flows of the contract to those of other players. So let’s start with that to see where the contract is strong for Beckham and where it is strong for the Giants.

PlayerYear 0Year 1Year 2Year 3Year 4Year 5
Odell Beckham$13,000,000$30,000,000$44,250,000$60,000,000$75,000,000$90,000,000
Antonio Brown$15,200,000$29,075,000$44,200,000$55,500,000$68,000,000FA
Mike Evans$5,000,000$25,000,000$41,750,000$54,000,000$68,000,000$82,500,000
Brandin Cooks$2,541,000$30,000,000$42,000,000$54,000,000$67,000,000$81,000,000
DeAndre Hopkins$16,085,000$28,585,000$41,085,000$53,585,000$67,085,000$81,000,000
Sammy Watkins$0$21,800,000$34,000,000$48,000,000FAFA
Jarvis Landry$0$21,500,000$34,050,000$47,100,000$60,400,000$75,500,000

The first two new years of the contract are clearly in the Giants favor. Beckham’s 1 year cash payout only matches that of Cooks and his two year is just $50,000 ahead of Brown. The contract doesn’t take a turn to Beckham’s favor until the third contract year in which his payout grows to nearly $5 million above the market leader and then $7 million in year 4. I like when guys set big benchmarks throughout a contract not as it goes towards the backend of the deal.

The big question here to see the strength of the deal is what the vesting schedule is for the contract. I don’t have that piece of information but if it is a March vesting date that money is not that secure as there would only be $8 million in dead money if released due to performance. If it’s a 2019 or 2020 vesting date then the $60M is probably safe.

Beckham does have an additional $5 million in incentives that can be earned if he reaches 96 receptions, 1,374 yards and 12 touchdowns on a playoff team at age 29 and 30. Since 2000 only four players that age have accomplished those stats at age 29 and up according to Pro Football Reference. They were Marvin Harrison in 2001, Brandon Marshall in 2015, Randy Moss in 2007, and Jordy Nelson in 2014. Three of those four made the playoffs and none did it more than once. So these are a longshot to say the least. Given that the escalators are tied to his career stats as a young player it would have been nice to see them reflect the $20 million three year metric that the Giants agreed was his worth in the first three years and maxed out at $10 rather than $5 million.

If age was not a consideration I would consider the Brown contract likely better since it’s a 4 year deal. If he was a young free agent he could make up the $7 million differential plus more on a new contract. By the same token I would not consider Watkins a stronger deal despite many saying it is. To match Beckham, Watkins would need to earn $42M in the first two years of a new contract, essentially what he is earning now. Even though he is young I think he would be hard pressed to hit that figure unless his play dramatically increased.

What Should Have Worked For Beckham

Importance to the Giants– The passing game fell apart without Beckham last season. The team went from a playoff team to one of the worst in the NFL. Eli Manning went from looking reborn in 2017 to being replaced by Geno Smith. The head coach and the GM were both fired. Beckham his a number of flaws in that team with his ability which simply could not be replaced. This was the kind of argument that I think was made for players like Calvin Johnson in the past and recently Todd Gurley at running back. In his last two healthy seasons Beckham was responsible for over 37% of the Giants passing touchdowns, second to only Brown.

Changes in the Receiver Market– The longer teams wait to sign new extensions with their players the more the market changes. The minute Watkins signed a $16M contract red flags should have gone up everywhere. Cooks a year ago would have been an $11 or $12 million receiver. He makes $16.2M. Players like Albert Wilson and Danny Amendola who were $3M receivers are making $8 and $6 million a year. Stefon Diggs crossed the $14 million threshold a year or two after players like him would have topped off at $8 or $9 million.

Performance Relative to the Market– Here is how Beckham’s last two healthy seasons matched up with the other players two years leading up to a new contract.

PlayerAgeAvg. PtGamesTgtRecYdsTds
Odell Beckham2692.0%31327197281723
Antonio Brown2992.9%31347242311822
Mike Evans2582.1%31309167232217
Brandin Cooks2584.5%32231143225515
DeAndre Hopkins2596.8%32343189247515
Sammy Watkins2555.3%2312267102310
Jarvis Landry2691.2%32292206212313
Davante Adams2679.1%30238149188222

The numbers are significantly better than everyone other than Brown and at 26 the age gap should be worth more than a million even if the numbers are in Brown’s favor.

What Worked Against Beckham

High End Market Stagnation– Similar to the plight that hit the Quarterback market when Aaron Rodgers accepted a $22 million contract, Browns contract was far too accepted by others. DeAndre Hopkins was the first to settle for a contract that should have been the top player to sign. That was followed by Mike Evans just a few months ago. It takes something special to overturn a market and that happened here.

The Franchise Tag– There is no way around the leverage that teams hold over players with the tag. While many point to the success of Kirk Cousins and to a lesser extent Trumaine Johnson, there are plenty of negative stories about players who land on the tag. The tag was going to potentially lock Beckham into two years well under $40 million.  He’ll earn over $44M by taking this deal.  The NFLPA really needs to fight against the tag or the length or rookie contracts to make things more fair for some players.

Bad Circumstances– Beckham was hurt all of last season and nobody knows how good or bad he will be right now. The Giants drafted a running back with the 2nd overall pick and the GM who drafted Beckham is long gone too. If the Giants move to a run based offense and Beckham’s opportunities fall that will likely hurt his value. Beckham is also a pretty polarizing figure in NY. I listened to it every day for 3 years and his most vocal critic is back on the air. It won’t take much to turn sentiment to making this Barkley’s team rather than Beckham’s.

At the end of the day we aren’t arguing about much here.  This is different than Gurley looking to double a market or even a QB bringing the market to $30 million, unless there was ever any validity to his desire to be paid like a QB, which was never a realistic goal. But Beckham likely did not sign a contract that will keep him the highest paid for long. There are going to be weaker/more needy front offices that will move incrementally above Beckham over the next two years. As long as he is ok with that there should not be a problem but that is where things are most likely headed when the next crop of receivers gets new contracts.