Giants Trade Odell Beckham Jr. to the Browns
In a stunning, audacious move, the Giants on Tuesday traded wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., the team’s most popular and talented player, to the Cleveland Browns for safety Jabrill Peppers and the Browns’ first and third round choices in next month’s college draft.
The deal, which cannot be completed until the new league year begins on Wednesday, was confirmed by persons with knowledge of the trade who were not authorized to discuss it.
It will be one of the biggest trades in the 94-year history of the typically staid Giants franchise and may prove to be the most controversial. Beckham’s spectacular acrobatic catches, stirring touchdown runs and provocative end zone dances, made him a prominent and occasionally polarizing figure in New York and throughout the N.F.L.
Nonetheless, since his rookie year in 2014, Beckham’s career, which has already included three Pro Bowl selections, was viewed as incandescent and the Giants seemed to recognize that potential by rewarding Beckham with a five-year, $90 million contract extension last year that made him the league’s highest paid wide receiver.
But Beckham’s tenure with the Giants grew troubled soon after the contract was finalized, as he appeared to express displeasure with the spiraling, downward direction of the team in a television interview. Rumors began to circulate that the Giants, who have had only one winning season since 2012, were willing to listen to trade offers for Beckham.
The Giants brain trust repeatedly denied Beckham was being shopped to other teams. Late last year and again in recent weeks, the Giants general manager Dave Gettleman insisted that the Giants “didn’t sign Odell to trade him.”
Gettleman added: “That’s all I need to say about that.”
But Tuesday night the trade with Cleveland was finalized. The Giants will get the 17th overall pick in the draft — they already own the No. 6 pick — along with a third-rounder (No. 95 overall). Peppers, a native of New Jersey and the Browns’ first round choice in 2017, has one interception in 29 games for Cleveland, with 96 solo tackles.
The strongest part of Peppers’s skill set is tackling near the line of scrimmage, which makes him similar to Landon Collins, the safety the Giants allowed to enter free agency a few days ago. Collins, however, is a three-time Pro Bowler who signed a three-year contract worth $45 million with the Washington Redskins Monday.
Beckham, 26, leaves the Giants with 390 receptions for 5,476 yards and 44 touchdowns in 59 games. He has averaged 14 yards per catch and ranks in the top five of several N.F.L. receiving categories when compared to his contemporaries in the last five seasons — and that’s after missing 16 games during two seasons because of a broken ankle and a serious hamstring strain.
The trade of Beckham will put added scrutiny on the Giants decision-making in next month’s draft and during the free agency period. Beckham’s departure seems a strong indication that the team is girding for a period of rebuilding and will no longer be chasing a playoff berth in 2019, or perhaps even beyond next season. But the team’s continued support for 38-year-old quarterback Eli Manning runs counter to that thinking.
The Giants face other challenges, too. Beckham will still count $16 million against the team’s salary cap next season and the roster lacks productive N.F.L. caliber players at multiple pivotal positions both on offense and defense.
For the last several months, the Giants conceded they would listen to trade offers for Beckham but indicated it would take some combination of high draft picks and a top N.F.L. starter to lure Beckham away from the Giants.
The Giants received neither in Tuesday’s trade.
For the long-suffering Browns, the trade is a thunderbolt transaction that will galvanize the franchise, which has never won a Super Bowl. Cleveland not only becomes an overnight playoff candidate, it is a contender to win the rugged A.F.C. North division.
Behind quarterback Baker Mayfield, the first overall pick of the 2018 college draft, the Browns were a startling 7-8-1 last season and benefited from a rejuvenated offense built around young stars. Coach Freddie Kitchens, whose background is as an offensive coach, will now have one of the top weapons in the N.F.L. to complement second-year running back Nick Chubb and veteran wide receiver Jarvis Landry, who is Beckham’s former college teammate at Louisiana State. Beckham and Landry are also good friends.
As for the Giants, they have no wide receivers under contract beyond next season and that includes the new ace of the receiving corps, Sterling Shepard, a three-year veteran with 30 fewer touchdown receptions than Beckham.
Late Tuesday night, Beckham seemed prepared to move on from the team that drafted him with the 12th pick five years ago. Speaking with the NFL Network after what he described as a brief conversation with Gettleman, Beckham said: “At this point I have no idea what to think. I’m trying to process it right now.” Beckham added that leaving the Giants was, “bittersweet, but it is what it is. It’s life.”