CLEVELAND, Ohio — Odell Beckham Jr. hasn’t slammed the door shut on a return to the Browns, but it’s unlikely at this point.
A source told cleveland.com that Beckham is open to the possibility because he loved his teammates and Browns fans, and only left when things reached the point of no return with Baker Mayfield.
But now that Mayfield is on his way out and three-time Pro Bowler Deshaun Watson is here, Beckham, 29, wouldn’t rule out coming back if the Browns were interested.
The pros are that owners Jimmy and Dee Haslam like Beckham a lot and got close to him in his two-plus seasons here. He also has the full support of his former Browns teammates, who hated to see him go. Even after his father, Odell Beckham Sr., shared the “Odell Beckham Jr is Always Open’’ video, players such as safety John Johnson III said they’d welcome him back with open arms in the locker room.
Myles Garrett was also a huge Beckham supporter and expressed his dismay that the players had no input before the Browns released him. Beckham, of course, went on to help the Rams win the Super Bowl, but tore his ACL again in his left knee in the second quarter of the 23-20 victory over the Bengals.
Beckham caught the first touchdown pass of the game, a 17-yard strike from Matthew Stafford, and also caught a 35-yarder to set up another score before re-tearing the ACL in a non-contact on his third and final target of the game.
In his eight regular-season games with the Rams, Beckham caught five TDs passes, and in his four playoff games, he caught two. That was after no TDs in his six games with the Browns last season.
Beckham underwent surgery again shortly after the Super Bowl, and is in the midst of another lengthy rehab, but could return to the field in 2022. The first time he tore the ACL, Oct. 25, 2020 against the Bengals, he was back on the field for the Browns in 11 months. If it takes him that long again, he’d miss most or all of the 2022 season, but plans to resume his career.
The Browns would also have to overcome the controversial and explosive nature of Beckham’s exit last season, and at this point, it’s a longshot.
But the Browns didn’t burn any bridges with Beckham, seeing to it that he wouldn’t get claimed via waivers last season, and enabling him to become an unrestricted free agent after this season.
Browns still working on trading Baker Mayfield
Despite Mayfield’s landing spots drying up, the Browns are still actively trying to trade him and would prefer doing so sooner than later. While the Colts, Saints and Falcons have all settled on their starters, the Seahawks are one team that might have some interest if the price is right.
It would’ve helped the Browns to engage a couple of teams in a bidding war, but with jobs dwindling, they might not have that luxury.
The Browns also don’t intend to pay a portion of Mayfield’s $18.86 million guaranteed salary the way the Panthers did last season when they traded Teddy Bridgewater to the Broncos.
Jarvis Landry’s return still a possibility
Nothing is imminent, but it’s still possible for Landry to the Browns this season. The Browns released the veteran receiver to save about $15 million on the salary cap, but would be happy to have him back at a reduced rate.
Landry would pair nicely with four-time Pro Bowler Amari Cooper, and give Watson another reliable weapon. Landry wanted nothing more than to win a Super Bowl with the Browns, and now it’s entirely possible with Watson at QB.
Jadeveon Clowney too
The Browns still hope to re-sign defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, but know that he takes his time to get it right. The fact that Watson, his former Texans teammate, is on board is a big selling point for him, and Watson might even be helping in the recruitment process.
The Browns have also had Bills free agent Jerry Hughes on their radar this offseason.
Austin Hooper admits to some frustration here
Hooper, who signed a one-year deal with the Titans worth $6 million, admitted during his opening press conference that he was dismayed that the Browns didn’t use him more in the passing game before terminating his contract last week.
Before he arrived in Cleveland, he caught 71 and 75 passes in Atlanta, making the Pro Bowl in 2018 and 2019. In Cleveland, after signing a four-year deal worth $10.5 million a year, he caught 46 and 38, respectively.
“There’s definitely some frustration there,” Hooper said during his introductory press conference. “I’ve been wondering why they gave me the deal and wasn’t really involved that much. At the end of the day, I’ve always been the type of player to accept the role I’ve been asked to do.”
Hooper, second on the Browns in targets in 2020 and 2021, is eager for a fresh start.
“It’s great to be here,” Hooper said, “I am excited. I am excited to be at a place where I am wanted, on a team that has a ton of talent, with the potential to do something special. Me, I am just going to go out and put my best foot forward and be the best I can be. I want to get back to doing what I know I can do.’’
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