CLEVELAND (AP) — Odell Beckham Jr.’s run his last route for the Browns. He’s wide open now.
The polarizing wide receiver is being released by the Cleveland Browns, who are cutting ties with Beckham after a drama-filled stay that ended with him being told to stay home from practice.
Beckham’s unceremonious exit — not completely official — came on Friday, his 29th birthday, and a few days after his father shared a video on social media highlighting times when Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield didn’t throw passes to the three-time Pro Bowler.
It was a tipping point in the team’s often-unstable relationship with him.
The Browns didn’t appreciate the video or that Beckham didn’t reach out to Mayfield, who said he was wiling to work things out.
Beckham was told not to report to practice for two days as his representation worked with Browns general manager Andrew Berry on agreeable financial terms for both sides in his departure.
“I don’t think anyone envisioned when the organization traded for Odell three years ago that this would really be the resolution,” Berry said. “It’s unfortunate, but at the same time there are some situations in the NFL where things just don’t quite work out and that’s where we are today.
“Those decisions are incredibly difficult, but at the end of the day it’s a decision that I felt was appropriate for our team.”
Once the sides finalize financial terms — Beckham is owed $8 million this season — Beckham will be waived and can be claimed by any team with enough salary-cap space. If he clears the waiver wire next week, he’ll be a free agent and can sign anywhere.
“It’s disappointing,” Browns coach Kevin Stefanski said following Friday’s practice. “Obviously, unfortunate how it all went down, but I wish him well.”
Stefanski said he has not spoken to Beckham, who could wind up facing the Browns at some point this season.
Browns star defensive end Myles Garrett was somewhat shocked by the speed that the situation unfolded.
“It was quicker than anyone expected,” Garrett said. “I wish we got a little bit more communication between upper management and the players, a little bit more knowledge of what was going on because it seemed just like it happened overnight.
“Things just like kind of snowballed. Wish we would have just known and that’s the tough part. I feel like that happens a lot in the league where things are just happening to players and we have to react instead of having some communication from the top down.”
Garrett knew Beckham was frustrated, but wasn’t aware of him demanding to be traded.
Now that Beckham’s gone, the Browns can put their full attention on Sunday’s game against the Cincinnati Bengals. Coincidentally, it was against the Bengals in Week 7 last season when Beckham suffered a season-ending knee injury.
Garrett thinks the saga could unite the Browns.
“I think it will bring us together,” said the league’s sacks leader. “It did the first time he went out, even though that was against anyone’s wishes, but we found a way and I think this year we’re going to do the same thing.”
One of he NFL’s most talented receivers, Beckham has also been one of its most irksome.
He came to Cleveland in a blockbuster 2019 trade from the New York Giants, who had grown tired of his self-absorbed antics. His arrival on the Browns brought unrealistic expectations in the first season and played a role in the team going 6-10 and undergoing another coaching change.
Although he insisted he was happy in Cleveland, where he was reunited with former college teammate and close friend Jarvis Landry, Beckham didn’t seem to like not being in a big market. He reportedly told opponents on the field during pregame warmups to “come get me” in the offseason.
Beckham seemed to fall in line last season under Stefanski, but he never made a strong on-field connection with Mayfield, and their lack of chemistry was a constant topic.
When Beckham went down with his knee injury last October, it appeared to free up Mayfield, who played better without the playmaker and led the Browns to their first playoff appearance in 18 seasons and first postseason win since 1994.
Beckham worked hard to return from a torn anterior cruciate ligament this season, and there was a time when it looked as if his relationship with Mayfield and the Browns was finally working. However, he was rarely a major part of the game plan — other than to be a decoy — and Beckham was noticeably upset after Sunday’s loss to Pittsburgh when he caught just one pass for 6 yards in a 15-10 loss.
The video — along with a tweet from LeBron James, who said “OBJ will show again why he’s special. WR1 #FreeOBJ” — looked to be orchestrated by Beckham and the clearest sign a breakup was necessary.
Beckham, who has been playing with a shoulder sprain for the past few weeks, had 17 catches for 232 yards and zero touchdowns in six games this season. He only had two 100-yard games in 29 with Cleveland.
“We have to pick up the pieces and keep on striving for greatness,” Garrett said. “He’s gone and we’ve still got to win. We’ve still got a game on Sunday.”
Sign up for the WTAJ Newsletter for the latest local news, weather, and community events that matter to you.