The Baltimore Ravens finally have their superstar wide receiver, but not everybody is impressed by the deal the team agreed with Odell Beckham Jr. on Easter Sunday.
Former NFL offensive lineman Ross Tucker believes the Ravens “way overpaid” by giving OBJ $15 million guaranteed for one year. Tucker thinks the uncertainty surrounding quarterback Lamar Jackson forced the Ravens to overpay.
Speaking on the Ross Tucker Football Podcast, Tucker, who played five years for multiple teams, including the Dallas Cowboys and Buffalo Bills, called the deal “maybe the worst contract I’ve ever seen the Ravens give out. This HAS to be about Lamar Jackson.”
Beckham’s contract did defy this year’s wide receive market, but Jackson needed a go-to target on the outside. The arrival of a Super Bowl winner who has thrived before on the watch of offensive coordinator Todd Monken might be the incentive Jackson needs to sign a new contract.
That’s worth a hefty investment in Beckham, even though the contract carries obvious risks.
Ravens Taking Heat for Gambling Big on OBJ
As Tucker pointed out, Beckham’s injury history and recent modest production don’t match the numbers he got: “$15 million dollars, fully guaranteed for a guy who will be 31, has torn his ACL twice in the last three years, has 856 yards receiving in the last three years, and didn’t play last year, at all.”
Tucker isn’t the only one left aghast at what the Ravens paid OBJ. It’s a “pretty crazy deal,” according to Brad Spielberger of Pro Football Focus, while Fox Sports’ Ralph Vacchiano thinks it’s “hard to believe any other team came close to that.”
The best way to interpret Beckham’s contract is to deem it out of character for the Ravens. The franchise has a modest history of paying for veteran wideouts, as numbers from Warren Sharp of Sharp Football Analysis show:
General manager Eric DeCosta has gone against the grain, and maybe that’s because his back is against the wall regarding Jackson’s uncertain future. Alternatively, perhaps the Ravens simply didn’t rate the rest of the free-agent class at the position this year.
Tucker lamented how the likes of Jakobi Meyers, Allen Lazard and Juju Smith-Schuster all got less than Beckham on the open market, even though “they had to commit themselves to their new teams for at least three years.”
The Ravens obviously didn’t consider a similar investment worth it when Beckham has a higher pedigree than those names. It’s possible DeCosta also feels a one-year flier on OBJ is better than chancing his arm finding a receiver in the first round of the 2023 NFL draft.
There’s a common consensus this year’s class is loaded with gifted wideouts, but Senior Bowl Executive Director Jim Nagy isn’t so sure:
If the Ravens are one of those teams who believe there’s actually a shortage of first-round-worthy receivers, their deal for Beckham makes a little more sense.
Ultimately, this front-loaded contract will be judged on what it means for Jackson’s future.
OBJ Deal Has to Influence Lamar Jackson
The franchise quarterback is set to play on the non-exclusive franchise tag if he doesn’t agree fresh terms in the next few months. Playing on the tag is far from ideal, but Jackson may warm to the idea if it means he gets to throw to Beckham for a season.
They “had multiple conversations” before Beckham signed, according to Jordan Schultz of The Score, so it’s appears Jackson was a force for making this deal happen. Jackson was quick to offer a sign of his approval when he shared a screenshot of him face-timing with Beckham shortly after news of the contract broke, per ESPN’s Jamison Hensley:
Tucker was less than impressed by Jackson’s social-media activity and how it relates to the trade request the QB revealed he’d made on March 2: “What happened to you trade request, Lamar? Probably not (a) real good look for your trade demand…”
Jackson’s enthusiasm for Beckham’s arrival is understandable given the lack of marquee wideouts at his disposal in recent years. Beckham may not be the playmaker he once was, but he can still make an impact in the right offense.
His numbers with the Los Angeles Rams appear modest, but Beckham had become a secondary target behind Copper Kupp following his mid-season trade to the NFC West in 2021. OBJ still managed to catch seven touchdowns, including two during a postseason run that ended with the Rams winning Super Bowl LVI.
If the Ravens get something similar from Beckham, Jackson will be a better quarterback for it. He may even be a star signal-caller in the mood to stick around for the long haul.