Here we go again. For the second consecutive season, wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. is being mentioned in at least one report that suggests the Browns are willing to trade him.
The latest Beckham trade rumor should be taken with a grain of salt with the source being Mike Francesa, not your traditional NFL news-breaker. The New York-based radio talk show host tweeted Tuesday that Cleveland is "looking to trade" the 27-year-old wideout and "asking a lot" in a potential deal. No other NFL reporters have backed up Francesa's claim.
There's a decent chance this Beckham trade rumor is unsubstantiated, but based on recent history, its validity would surprise nobody.
The root of the now multiple Beckham trade rumors that have surfaced since he was traded to the Browns in 2019 is what can only be described as an elephant in Cleveland's locker room. The three-time Pro Bowler did not choose to play for a franchise that has not won a playoff game since the Clinton Administration. He was sent to Cleveland by New York in exchange for a couple draft picks and safety Jabrill Peppers.
At the time of that mid-March trade, many (including Sporting News) figured the Browns were getting a steal despite the issues with Beckham that ultimately forced the Giants' hand. Quarterback Baker Mayfield was entering his second season as what the team hoped would be its long-awaited answer at the position. The Browns were a trendy pick to win the AFC North in 2019.
We wrote the following about Cleveland's side of the trade: "Unless one believes the issues that led the Giants to trade Beckham will impact his relations with his new Browns teammates, particularly Mayfield, he or she will have a hard time figuring ways in which Cleveland comes out a loser in this deal."
What has happened with Beckham in Cleveland since can be described as rocky at best and disastrous at worst.
A month after the trade, Mayfield was already having to play defense against claims that his new teammate didn't want to play for the Browns. Those claims grew to a crescendo when Beckham chose not to show up for the first set of voluntary team activities.
The Browns' 2019 season was defined by disappointment as they struggled to a 6-10 record and eventually fired coach Freddie Kitchens. For Beckham, the year was ruined in part by multiple injuries. But in the context of persistent trade rumors, we can't forget that Jay Glazer report.
Toward the end of what had become a lost season, the veteran Fox reporter claimed Beckham had been telling opponents he wanted out of Cleveland, with "come get me" reportedly being his specific wording.
The following April, WFAN radio host Marc Malusis reported the Browns were trying to trade Beckham to the Vikings for a pair of draft picks. Yahoo! Sports strongly refuted that report, but as we wrote at the time, Cleveland probably should have considered it.
Which brings us back to the latest Beckham trade rumor. Any deal in 2020 would be tough to manage financially, which is why the Browns would be looking for "a lot" in a trade for the wide receiver.
Beckham's cap hit this year is $14.25 million, a hefty number for another team to take on. And while the Browns are comfortably under the salary cap, a Beckham trade would cost them $14 million in dead money. Any issues leading to a trade would have to be bad enough for the Browns to justify paying that much for Beckham not to play for them.
Winning tends to alleviate these kinds of issues, of course, which is why Cleveland's Thursday night game against Cincinnati is so vital. A loss would drop the Browns to 0-2 and significantly reduce their chances of making the playoffs.
At least one Cleveland media outlet is already encouraging the team to move Beckham. Compounding losses would only lead to additional friction and more trade rumors.