What are Dolphins getting in Odell Beckham Jr.? Reported contract hints at his value

Dolphins' Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle endorse the deal, notably with this seal of approval: 🔥

The NFL’s near-annual tradition continued Friday, when another playoff-contending team agreed to terms with Odell Beckham Jr.

But the terms of the deal spoke to why this year is different from last.

Barely a year after the Baltimore Ravens signed Beckham to a deal worth $15 million guaranteed, the Miami Dolphins are signing him to a deal worth $3 million guaranteed, per multiple media reports. Incentives reportedly could bump the deal to $8.25 million maximum.

To say that the Dolphins view Beckham as 20% the player he was a year ago is an oversimplification of how contract terms correlate to perception and production. But Miami makes something clear with this deal: Beckham is no longer the player who merited the New York Giants’ 12th overall draft pick nor the player who strung together three Pro Bowl seasons to begin his career.

He also isn't the player who posted five 1,000-yard seasons in his first six years, the final season with the Cleveland Browns.

Beckham returned from the Super Bowl ACL tear that sidelined him for the 2022 season to catch 35 of 64 targets last season in Baltimore, with his 565 receiving yards ranking second and his three receiving touchdowns ranking fifth on the team. He caught just one pass in the Ravens’ 34-10 divisional win over the Houston Texans and struggled still further in the AFC championship game loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, in which Beckham caught three of six targets from Lamar Jackson for 22 total yards.

Even so, the Dolphins confirmed in March that they’d extended an offer to Beckham.

“Business takes time, especially with players like Odell, who’s had a phenomenal career and still has really good football in front of him and has options,” Dolphins head coach Mike McDaniel said March 25 after confirming the offer. “I think those conversations will be ongoing. We’ll see where they go. I don’t live in the world of crystal-balling, and I do stay in my lane as a coach. I’m definitely ready to coach him if we can come to an agreement.”

How will McDaniel coach Beckham? Perhaps that’s the most interesting part of the news — the tantalizing potential of how one of the league’s best offensive minds and most creative systems might incorporate a veteran such as Beckham.

Odell Beckham Jr.'s connection with quarterback Lamar Jackson couldn't get the Ravens over the top in the AFC Championship Game. (Karl Merton Ferron/The Baltimore Sun/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)
Odell Beckham Jr.'s connection with quarterback Lamar Jackson couldn't get the Ravens over the top in the AFC Championship Game. (Karl Merton Ferron/The Baltimore Sun/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)

Beckham was productive in the regular season before struggling to produce in the postseason. But that was in an offense with a heavier slant toward the run and lighter emphasis on speed. Is Beckham an obvious fit to slide in with speedy threats such as Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle?

Some around the league questioned the decision, with one NFC executive expecting to see Beckham schemed underneath as Hill and Waddle execute their vertical threats. An AFC assistant thought working in the confines of another vertical threat wouldn’t play to Beckham’s historical strength.

“It's not like he's like a bigger possession-type receiver anyway. He's always been the stretch-the-field type guy,” the assistant coach said. “I don’t know why they signed him.”

Dolphins teammates, meanwhile, were excited. Cornerback Jalen Ramsey posted a picture of himself and Beckham celebrating a Super Bowl victory with the Rams, when they were last teammates. Waddle tweeted four fire emojis along with “OBJ that’s tough!!!” Hill added: “It’s about to get ugly in Miami.”

To McDaniel, the vision doesn’t require Beckham to pace his Next Gen Stats record-setting teammates.

“Yes, we like the fast guys, but it starts as football players,” McDaniel said after the draft. “There’s a lot of football players we like, and when we have opportunities at different areas of the draft, our starting point isn’t speed but covering space in a limited amount of time, how fast you play on the football field. When the opportunity presents itself and [general manager] Chris [Grier] asks if you want to trade for Tyreek Hill, you do that.

“You draft players because they’re football players, and if they’re fast, that’s cool.”