Odell Beckham Jr. gives Browns an offense that will compete with best in AFC | NFL
The Browns’ offense has the potential to be the best in the AFC — and perhaps the entire NFL — with Odell Beckham Jr. on board.
Cleveland has general manager John Dorsey to thank after yet another bold move that will put the franchise in position to back up that bold, yet objective, assessment.
This is the biggest splash of the NFL offseason — yes, it’s bigger than Antonio Brown to the Raiders. The Browns acquired Beckham from the Giants on Tuesday in exchange for their 2019 first-round pick (17th overall), the second of their two 2019 third-round picks (95th overall) and safety Jabrill Peppers.
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It is a master power play by Dorsey. It ignites a fan base looking to welcome new coach Freddie Kitchens, who leads a roster that will try to build on last year’s 7-8-1 season. It gives franchise quarterback Baker Mayfield a go-to receiver with four 1,000-yard seasons and 44 touchdowns in five seasons. It provides Beckham with a career-altering opportunity after his time with New York had run its course.
All of that has the Browns moving at ludicrous speed toward goals that could not have seemed possible on Dec. 31, 2017.
That was the day Cleveland bottomed out and became the second 0-16 team in NFL history. The skill position leaders in that loss to Pittsburgh were Robert Griffin III, Isaiah Crowell, George Atkinson, Terrelle Pryor, Corey Coleman and Gary Barnidge. None of those players are on a roster that Dorsey has revamped in a year and change.
Seriously, how good is the offense now? Mayfield set the rookie record with 27 touchdowns over 13 starts, and that doesn’t account for the on-field swagger he brought to the offense. Nick Chubb rushed for 996 yards and eight touchdowns and averaged 5.2 yards per carry as a rookie. Cleveland signed Kareem Hunt, who could face a lengthy suspension but would add multipurpose skill to the offense when, or if, he is given a chance. David Njoku is developing into a reliable tight end.
Now, to the part you’ve been waiting for: Beckham and Jarvis Landry combined for 136 receptions, 2,345 yards and 18 touchdowns with LSU in 2013 — and that was with Zach Mettenberger and Anthony Jennings throwing the passes. What do you think they will do with Mayfield?
Cleveland also re-signed Breshad Perriman on Tuesday to give the offense yet another vertical threat, though Cleveland.com reports the receiver wants out of his one-year, $4 million deal.
All that adds up to the most exciting offseason in Northeast Ohio since the 1980s.
Cleveland ranked 13th in yards (368.8) and 20th in points (22.4) last season, so there remains a lot of ground to cover to catch the Chiefs, who led the NFL with 425.6 yards and 35.3 points per game. The Patriots were a top-five offense with 393.4 yards and 27.3 points per game. Kansas City and New England are the standard in the conference right now, but on paper, the Browns have the personnel to run with them.
Of course, that’s on paper. The Steelers might not have Le’Veon Brown and Antonio Brown, but they will have a say in the AFC North. So will the Ravens. The Colts have a lot of pieces in place, too. So do the Chargers.
The fact the Browns are in this conversation before the 2019 NFL Draft is a victory for Dorsey. Cleveland won’t have a first-round pick, but the easy question there is: Would you rather have Beckham or D.K. Metcalf?
Dorsey also unloaded Peppers, a 2017 first-round pick who was never embraced in Cleveland, for a multitude of reasons. The deal provides both a clean break.
Beckham will be the story in OTAs, and there is a lot on the line for him, too. The Browns have been burned by highly viral players such as Johnny Manziel and Josh Gordon this decade. Beckham is the biggest addition to the roster since the team’s reboot in 1999, and the buzz will be even bigger than when Andre Rison left Atlanta for Cleveland via free agency after the 1994 season.
Of course, that signing did not work out. In 1995, the Browns announced they were moving to Baltimore, and it has been a battle ever since to recreate that excitement.
That time is now. Cleveland is thinking AFC North, playoffs and maybe, just maybe, a Super Bowl.
Now, let’s see if Mayfield, Beckham and this offense can back up that bold, yet objective, assessment.