Odell Beckham sat on a cart Sunday afternoon holding up his broken ankle with one hand, while his other hand covered his face with his jersey. This is why underpaid players hold out for new contracts.
This worst-case scenario of Beckham’s season — the Giants confirmed he had a fractured ankle while NFL Network’s Kimberley Jones said Beckham will undergo an MRI to look for ligament damage — mirrors the Giants’ franchise dive into 0-5 irrelevance following Sunday’s 27-22 loss to the Chargers. The conversation in New York will turn to coach Ben McAdoo’s job security and the possibility of earning the No. 1 overall draft pick next April. NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported Sunday morning that McAdoo is not currently on the hot seat, “the Giants believe he is still a future very successful coach,” per Rapoport. For Beckham, it makes an uncertain future even cloudier.
Beckham has spoken about his desire to be the highest paid player in the NFL at any position, wanting to help “change the game” by getting superstar money in the same manner as the NBA’s biggest names. Beckham chose not to withhold his services during training camp this season despite his $1.839 million salary in 2017 placing him outside the top-60 highest paid players at his position. Team owner John Mara said this summer that the Giants were “going to pay” Beckham with a long-term deal more fitting of his talent. Mara allowed that it was a “possibility” Beckham could get that deal next offseason, although the aftermath of this injury will make it more complicated.
Beckham is under contract through 2018 after the Giants picked up the fifth-year option in his rookie deal, which should pay him in the range of $8.5 million. (That figure comes from averaging the third through 25th-highest paid receivers in football.) Beckham’s recovery timetable has yet to be established, but the team eventually will have to decide whether it wants to offer a top-of-the-market deal to a player coming off a serious injury. Giants brass might have to balance their significant leverage with what Beckham has clearly earned through his superlative play in his first three-plus seasons.
This was supposed to be the season that Beckham took his incredible star wattage to another level. Nike signed him to the highest-paid shoe contract in NFL history this summer, but this injury puts all his touchdown celebrations and brand building on hold. The same could be true for this Giants offense and its entire season.
When Beckham got to his knee Sunday to pump life into a football after scoring a 48-yard touchdown, it was easy to imagine a different type of Giants season. In this alternate universe, Beckham never suffered a high-ankle sprain in the preseason that handicapped the start to his season. The Giants season that so many imagined ending at the Super Bowl surely wouldn’t have included fellow starting wideouts Brandon Marshall and Sterling Shepard also getting sidelined Sunday with their own ankle injuries. It wouldn’t have the team’s vaunted defense ranked No. 28 in Football Outsiders’ metrics entering Week 5, before it gave up 10 fourth-quarter points Sunday to the Chargers.
Beckham carried this offense last season in a manner that few, if any, NFL receivers could. His Week 1 absence and limited health in September helped prove that point all over again. Now the weight of salvaging respect for this Giants season rests on the shoulders of McAdoo, who hasn’t always looked up to the task because of predictable play calling and questionable game management decisions. The Giants head to Denver next week and then host the Seahawks before what could be an extremely uncomfortable Week 8 bye without a victory.
Beckham’s contract will be put on the backburner while he recovers and his franchise attends to the pressing matter of this depressing 2017 season. While quarterback Eli Manning has hardly been the Giants’ biggest problem over the last three weeks, he and McAdoo will need to find a way to win some games before Beckham steps on the field again.
If not, the Giants could find themselves in position much like 2004: Drafting a new franchise quarterback for a brand-new head coach.