No one other than Odell Beckham Jr. knows for sure why he is separating himself from the Giants during their organized team activity practices. The newest speculation is found in a report linking Beckham’s absence to dollars and cents.
The non-participation in the OTAs is “directly related to his desire for a new deal,’’ according to ESPN.
Chronicling where Beckham has been and what he has been doing is lightweight stuff, to this point. His whereabouts next week, when the Giants gather for a three-day mandatory minicamp, is when the body blows start connecting.
If Beckham is on the scene, wearing his No. 13 jersey and dancing around the field, his blowing off the OTAs will be an afterthought. But if Beckham stays away, the Giants will have a bona fide contract squabble on their hands.
No one inside the Giants is expecting Beckham to boycott the minicamp — if he is a no-show, he could be fined about $90,000. If he attends, it is safe to assume he will play this season, like it or not, for his scheduled $1.8 million base salary.
The Giants picked up the fifth-year option that will pay Beckham $8.4 million in 2018. More than 40 receivers in the NFL will make more money from their team this season than Beckham will get from the Giants.
“He can’t play for $1.8 million,’’ an NFL source opined to The Post, citing the danger of an injury wiping out Beckham’s chances for a truly record-breaking contract befitting a star who has set virtually every receiving record for a player in his first three NFL seasons.
The Giants have not opened up negotiation for a new deal; there is no immediate need to do so, as they own Beckham’s rights for several more years. He is under contract through 2018 and after that, the Giants can designate him their franchise player in 2019 and, if they wish, again in 2020. It is highly unlikely the Giants would go that route. They can use this time allotted to them to determine if Beckham is maturing the way they hope he will before they make him the highest-paid receiver in league history. In turn, Beckham is taking full advantage of the “voluntary’’ nature of the OTAs — just as star defensive end Olivier Vernon has done.
If Beckham truly wants to play hardball, he could stay away until he gets a new deal. He would have the leverage of his immense talent, prolific production and widespread popularity, plus the $29 million Nike has contracted to pay him the next five years. The Giants, conceivably, could be backed into a corner: Pay Beckham or risk going into a season filled with playoff and possibly Super Bowl aspirations without their game-breaker. A placeholder one-year bump up in salary is unlikely — the Giants do not have much (less than $8 million) in salary cap room.
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Beckham has spent most of his time in California catching passes from Johnny Manziel, getting tips from Hall of Fame receiver Cris Carter and working out with trainer Jamal Liggin, a speed specialist. He also attended Game 2 of the NBA Finals in Oakland.
Giants co-owner John Mara this offseason has reiterated he wants Beckham to be a Giant for the remainder of his career. What would that take? It is hard to fathom Beckham’s camp wanting anything less than the richest contract for a receiver in NFL history. That would mean an annual average salary of more than $18.75 million, which is the total Calvin Johnson (seven years, $113 million) received from the Lions.
The Giants can certainly argue Beckham must wait his turn, as receivers rarely cash in after only three years in the league. It took Julio Jones four years to get a mega-deal from the Falcons; the same with A.J. Green from the Bengals. Dez Bryant got his breakthrough deal after five years with the Cowboys and Antonio Brown’s four-year, $68 million extension came after seven years with the Steelers.
Beckham can end all this speculation by arriving next week for the minicamp and putting to rest any notion he is dissatisfied with his contract. Or, he could report but not participate, a ploy used in the past by players dissatisfied with their money. The expectation is for Beckham to show up and compete. If that does not happen, the Giants have a problem.