Giants quarterback Eli Manning and wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr.

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Palladino: Odell Beckham Happiness Will Determine If Eli Has Great 2018

Paying WR Would Boost Manning's Chances Of Big Year

Ernie Palladino
June 04, 2018 - 10:53 am
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Shaun O’Hara recently told the media that Eli Manning could have a career year in 2018.

From his lips to you-know-who’s ears. And we’re not talking about that Big Blue boss in the sky, either.

Manning’s former center, now an an analyst for NFL Network, might well have been addressing John Mara, the man who will ultimately decide the second half of O’Hara’s prediction -- getting a healthy and happy Odell Beckham Jr. back to his old, productive self. That, sadly, may take a little more than a wish and a prayer, even from well-meaning folks like O’Hara.

A few million dollars more, in fact.

MORE: Nate Solder Talks Contract, Giants, His Son

Let’s first be clear about one thing. This space has never favored giving the oft-wayward Beckham a penny more than the $8.5 million option the Giants can make him play for in 2018. At least not until he shows a definitive bend toward maturity.

But then again, there’s no saying he can’t do that in short order. Now that new coach Pat Shurmur has plans to reinstate the leadership council that served Tom Coughlin so well but was blown up by successor Ben McAdoo, there’s a good possibility that the new coach could recruit Beckham to represent the wide receivers corps.

That would make a lot of sense, since Beckham has few real responsibilities now. It may not produce an instant rise in maturity level, but it probably wouldn’t hurt, either.

Should the desired effect happen, though, it might just prompt Mara to sweeten Beckham’s deal. Not to the guaranteed $60 million that would make him the highest-paid receiver in the league, but certainly to a something in an adjacent, less costly neighborhood.

That might keep the pass-catcher extraordinaire happy for a couple of years.

And really, that’s the challenge here. For all the lack of self-control he shows on the field, Beckham plays his best when he’s happy and having fun, even if his brand of fun rubs many the wrong way. Take away that Beckham, and you wind up with an above-average receiving corps. Not a bad thing, but certainly not the NFL’s most explosive set one gets with Beckham hitting on all mental cylinders.

Then there’s Manning himself. O’Hara noted that his brother Peyton set a league touchdown record at age 37, two years after neck surgery. But throwing touchdowns always came naturally to Peyton.

Eli is different. He needs other aspects of the offense working for him, like a good offensive line and a running game. It’s why general manager Dave Gettleman took great pains to draft Saquon Barkley at No. 2 overall and then pick up nasty guard Will Hernandez in the second round. Wrap all that up in a free agent bow of left tackle Nate Solder and a bulky free agent guard Patrick Omameh, and voila! A restructured line.

The operation is a little more complicated than that, of course. Shurmur needs it all to actually work in the regular season. Then, he has to hope that what he’s seen out of Manning in OTAs is real, and not merely the last gasps of a quarterback heading over a final hill.

But it’s a good start; certainly a step toward resurrecting the unwatchable team from a year ago.

The key remains Beckham, though.

Without him, O’Hara’s optimism can only fall hopelessly short.

Whatever contract choice Mara decides on, he had best be right. Too much rests on that one issue to make a wrong call.       

Follow Ernie on Twitter at @ErniePalladino