Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr.

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Keidel: Giants Should Wait To See If Odell Beckham Jr. Returns To Form Before Paying Him Big Bucks

Jason Keidel
June 14, 2018 - 1:04 pm
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This slice of cyberspace has often urged the Giants to pay Odell Beckham Jr. He's their best player, their biggest star and the name that tops the MetLife marquee. While you can't ignore the histrionics, the viral videos and redundant declarations that he needs his money, you can't ignore his production or his appeal to football fans.  

You also can't ignore the injuries, the last of which sidelined Beckham for the bulk of the 2017 season. And that's the reason Big Blue shouldn't unload the big bucks quite yet. 

Beckham's demands are backed by his stats. Antonio Brownis the only wide receiver with more touchdowns than Beckham since 2014 -- 44 to 38. And Beckham is surely chafed from watching his peers, including Jarvis Landry and Mike Evans, get big-dollar deals. Even Sammy Watkins, who hasn't quite lived up to his draft slot, got a three-year, $48 million deal with the Chiefs. Beckham isn't just one of them or part of them, he's better than them. And surely the G-Men concede their electric, eccentric wideout is worth well more than the $8.5 million he's due in 2018. But that doesn't mean they must pay him today. 

Most of us agree that NFL rookie contracts linger way too long, giving NFL clubs way more contractual control over their young stars than they should. Beckham should have been able to cash in on his epic ability by now. Put that on NFL Players Association boss DeMaurice Smith and his legal eagles who got schooled by commissioner Roger Goodell at the bargaining table. 

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As a Steelers fan, I find it agonizing to watch my favorite team taunt Le'Veon Bell -- the best running back in football -- with a string of franchise tags rather than lavishing him with the long-term deal he deserves. Bell can yell, gripe or release all the rap videos he wants, but the Steelers still hold the high card. 

Fair or not, the Giants also hold all the cards. And in this case, they would be wise to make sure Beckham, coming off a broken ankle, is still able to befuddle defenders the way he has over his glittering few years in the league. But they risk driving a wide wedge between employee and employer, irritating Beckham into signing with another team once he becomes a free agent. 

The Giants, however, also know there's no town in which Beckham can monetize his brand quite like New York City. The NFL is so big that it has erased the notion of a small-market club, but Beckham knows the Big Apple is still way better for his cultural cachet than Jacksonville, Charlotte or Nashville. 

For all his athletic splendor, Beckham has missed 17 games since his rookie season (2014), including 12 games last year. And he has played all 16 regular-season games just once, in 2016. If Beckham deserves to be the highest-paid wide receiver in the sport -- and he does -- then the Giants have the equal right to make sure their investment is of proper mind and without mangled limb. 

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For cynics and Beckham critics who say you don't build pro football from the outside in and most teams win Super Bowls sans star wideouts, you're right. But Beckham deserves big money because he's a big attraction. Not only is he obscenely productive on the field, his impact off the field is almost immeasurable. Ticket sales, TV ratings and merchandizing are as much a part of the player algorithm as first downs and touchdowns. And Beckham is arguably the biggest attraction in the NFL. 

Beckham won't sit out this season. Even if he's vastly underpaid, he won't forfeit $8.5 million to prove it. And if you think this is unique to New York, look at Bell or Aaron Donald. Arguably the best defensive player in football, Donald can't get the Rams to crack open the vault, at least not wide enough to suit the defensive tackle. On the field, Donald is more valuable to a football team than Beckham is, yet he's been battling the Rams for over a year to get a new deal done. 

Giants co-owner John Mara may be sick of talking about Beckham's offseason drama, but he's not sick of all the scoring, of all those No.13 jerseys bounding about the Big Apple or OBJ's social media following. Beckham is good for business, is good for football, is good for the football Giants. He deserves to get paid. He just needs to prove he's healthy. Then the production, and the pay, will follow. 

Follow Jason on Twitter at @JasonKeidel