The Detroit Lions have top priority on the NFL waiver wire, but Lions coach Dan Campbell said they will not use that position to upgrade their receiving corps when Odell Beckham Jr. hits waivers later today.
Beckham, the talented but mercurial soon-to-be ex-Cleveland Browns receiver, wisely agreed to a restructured contract that should allow him to pick his next destination and make him a less attractive addition for also-ran teams, even ones as receiver-needy as the Lions.
According to reports, the Browns converted a significant portion of Beckham’s remaining $7.25 million base salary to a roster bonus due later this week and eliminated the final two years of his deal. In exchange, Beckham agreed not to seek termination pay for whatever money he misses out on should he go unclaimed on waivers.
While the base salary conversion in itself is not enough to scare off interested parties — for a team willing to claim Beckham on waivers, the final price is the same $7.25 million — the fact Beckham is now a three-month rental should thin the pool of teams (which was perhaps already zero) willing to pay that much for his services.
The Lions, 0-8 and the only winless team in the NFL, badly need help at receiver. They have the worst receiving corps in the league, no semblance of a deep passing game and no stars anywhere on their roster. Beckham could help in all three areas.
But ignoring for a moment their own salary cap crunch, the Lions never made sense as a landing spot for Beckham, an oft-injured and seemingly on-the-decline receiver who made it clear he wants to play the rest of the season for a contender and comes with no potential payoff down the road.
If claimed, Beckham will be a free agent in March no matter how he plays between now and the new year. The Lions are not winning anything — perhaps, literally — between now and then. And Beckham did not tear up the final two years of his deal to avoid testing the market.
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More likely, Beckham will clear waivers and sign with a contending team like the Seattle Seahawks, New Orleans Saints or Green Bay Packers, and even then might not add much value.
Once one of the NFL’s most exciting players, Beckham has been a disappointment since joining the Browns in a spectacular 2019 trade that for a brief time was the talk of the NFL. He had good first season in Cleveland, catching 74 passes for 1,035 yards, but has played just 13 games and has less than 600 yards receiving since.
The Lions do have a noteworthy tie to Beckham: Front office executive John Dorsey engineered Beckham’s trade to Cleveland as Browns GM in 2019. And Campbell admitted Monday he and general manager Brad Holmes discussed the possibility of adding Beckham, as they do all potential moves.
But even more notable, the Lions have just over $3 million in cap space, according to OverTheCap.com, which is not even half of what they’d need to claim Beckham on waivers.
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Surely, the Lions could create more cap room if they really wanted to bring Beckham to town. But Holmes is too smart to dip into future years’ space to lease a high-mileage sports car when newer, better versions will be available next spring.
The Lions had a chance to add Beckham years ago, when they passed on him and took Eric Ebron with the 10th pick of the 2014 draft.
Some may be angry at what they perceive to be the Lions passing on the chance to atone for that mistake. But rather than risk another one, the Lions are smart to pass on Beckham and continue down their current road, as rocky as it, at receiver.