ALLEN PARK, Mich. — Odell Beckham Jr. continues to be the consummate professional as the Giants prepare for the upcoming season. After Thursday’s light practice against the Lions, he spent several minutes balancing his knees on an exercise ball, while catching tennis balls with one hand as they were fired at him from a Jugs machine.
Whether he sees his first action of the preseason in Friday’s game at Ford Field remains uncertain, as head coach Pat Shurmur wouldn’t offer any hints other than “we’ve got a plan.” What isn’t part of the plan is the possibility of Beckham boycotting the season opener against Jacksonville if he doesn’t have a contract extension.
A former NFL executive with ample experience negotiating similar deals said he doesn’t think Beckham will play against the Jaguars on Sept. 9 if his request to become the highest paid receiver in the NFL isn’t met.
“If it’s not done before the season starts, I’d be surprised if he goes out there and plays,” said the source, who requested anonymity. “I know he reported. But I’d be surprised if he plays without a [new] contract.”
That would be devastating for the Giants, which is why the deal must get done before the regular-season opener. Shurmur has enjoyed a distraction-free camp thus far, with the most troubling occurrence being the hamstring strain suffered by rookie running back Saquon Barkley. Any hint of Beckham not playing against the Jaguars is the last thing the organization needs.
Beckham on Thursday said he’s leaving it to his agents to “figure out” his contract while he focuses on getting ready for the season.
“I definitely think it’s going to work itself out,” Beckham said. “When is it going to happen? You don’t know. That’s the business side that is still new to me. It’s the first time I’ve ever had to deal with this or go through any of those things. I believe it’s going to work itself out. It’s just a matter of time. … I just want to be back on the field.”
Beckham is vital to the Giants’ success, but it’s no guarantee the deal gets done by the opener. Though he’s scheduled to earn $8.5 million this year, he wants to be the highest paid receiver in the league, a credible request considering what he has done in 47 games over four seasons.
With 313 career receptions for 4,424 yards and 38 touchdowns, he owns records for the fewest games to reach 200 receptions and fewest games to reach 3,000 yards receiving. He was the first player in NFL history to record at least 80 catches and 1,000 receiving yards in each of his first three seasons.
“He’s historical as far as the things he’s done,” the source said. “You can’t argue that.”
What could be argued is the contract language regarding the guaranteed money if Beckham’s availability is compromised by an off-the-field issue or suspension. The Giants have to make sure the investment is worth it and that Beckham will be accountable and reliable.
Beckham’s injury history also has to be factored. He’s coming off a broken ankle that limited him to four games last year, and he was hobbled by leg injuries his rookie year.
“The Giants have to weigh the injury factor with the off-the-field and on-the-field distractions that have taken place,” the source said. “From a player’s perspective, you want as much guaranteed money as you can get no matter what happens. From a team’s perspective, you want to make sure you’re protected in a way that if something does happen off the field you don’t have to pay that money out.”
With three weeks to go before the opener, there is plenty of time to get the deal done. Eli Manning signed an $84 million extension two days before the season opener in 2015. The Giants need to have a similar result with Beckham before it gets messy.
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