Day two the free agent negotiating window saw the second elite receiver moved in a trade. The Giants are shipping Odell Beckham Jr to Cleveland for a haul which includes the 17th overall pick in April’s draft, one of the Browns’ third round picks, and safety Jabrill Peppers.
When looking at the sheer trade compensation, Raiders fans are feeling pretty stoked that their team just nabbed Antonio Brown for a third and a fifth compared to a first and third for Beckham. That’s fair in some regard, not quite fair in others.
First of all, age. Odell Beckham Jr is 26. Antonio Brown is 31. That’s a full long term contract separation between the two of them. So, naturally Beckham is going to be worth more for that reason. It’s the same reason Amari Cooper commanded a first round pick (he’s 24). They’re paying more because they’re investing more long term.
Beckham comes with a 5-year contract extension having just been signed last year, so he will be set with that contract presumably for a while. Brown was demanding a new deal with a lot of guaranteed money and that scared a lot of teams away. He will have three years left on his current deal and that could be it for him. Or at least it could take a steep downhill incline for the speedy receiver.
That being said, both players are still playing at an elite level and in the near future should both be near the top of the league in receiving as they have been throughout most of their careers. Beckham has made three Pro Bowls in five seasons, the same as Brown had in his first five seasons. But that fifth season for Brown he was named All Pro, starting a run of four straight All Pro nods. The Browns are counting on Beckham reaching that level with Baker Mayfield throwing him passes instead of Eli Manning who is clearly past it.
It could bite the Browns to lose a young starting safety and a top pick. That’s no small thing. Although, it certainly seems at this moment like Beckham is more valuable.
Both players were disgruntled with their previous situation and made a stink about it. But Brown forced the Steelers to get rid of him. The Giants didn’t have to dump Beckham, so it would take a sweet deal to get their attention.
This trade could easily bite the Giants. The odds they can replace Beckham’s talent in the draft are slim. They could have kept him and hope his attitude improved with a new QB like Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins while offering Haskins a target that would help his development considerably. After all, you can rebuild with a 26-year-old wide out.
In that regard, Brown’s behavior the past couple months worked in the Raiders’ favor considerably. Had he not made it completely clear he was done with the Steelers, they wouldn’t have considered trading him. Not with the $21 million in dead money they took on and not for a third and a fifth. But Brown gave them no choice and the Raiders were offering more than anyone else. At least more than anyone for whom Brown was willing to play and would meet his contract demands.
Basically, it comes down to age. That’s the only category that favors the Browns trade for Beckham. Everything else favors the Raiders deal to acquire Brown. Not that it’s a competition, but since we’re making a comparison, there you go.
Even his youth isn’t a guarantee Beckham is a better get than Brown. The Raiders and Jon Gruden know perhaps better than anyone that age is dependent upon the player. They signed Jerry Rice at the age of 39 and — paired up with Tim Brown and Rich Gannon — he was the missing piece to take the Raiders to the Super Bowl.
Brown is a relentless work out guy. That will serve him well. While all we can say for near certain is that Brown has a couple of elite years left, we very well could be sitting here three years from now with him approaching 34 seeing no let up in his play and talking another long term deal. Certainly you don’t count on that happening, though. You cross that bridge when you come to it.
Just like the Amari Cooper trade, it could be that the Browns and Giants both end up happy with their end of the deal. Or neither. Or any combination in between. Also just like the Cooper trade, the trade for Brown was immediately a win for the Raiders. There’s no need to wait to make that assessment.