In case you missed it, the Cowboys are pretty openly courting free agent wide receiver Odell Beckham, Jr. First. it began with various NFL insiders saying that Dallas is interested in Beckham, who is close to being cleared in his recovery from an ACL tear he suffered in the Super Bowl last year. Since then, both Mike McCarthy and Jerry Jones have laid it on thick when asked by media about the receiver:
Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy said “we really love our receiver group.” But with free agent WR Odell Beckham, “I’ve always been a huge fan of his. …I’ve just heard so many excellent, excellent things about him.”— Michael Gehlken (@GehlkenNFL) November 7, 2022
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones on @1053thefan on Odell Beckham Jr.: “Odell is someone that we have all the appreciation in the world for what he is as a competitor. I know the Cowboys star on that helmet when he puts it on could look pretty good.”— Jon Machota (@jonmachota) November 8, 2022
Boy, it sure sounds like contract negotiations with Beckham are a formality at this point. The comments from Jones aren’t as notable as McCarthy’s, who usually speaks more vaguely when asked about players outside the building. All signs are pointing towards Beckham potentially being in a Cowboys uniform, so let’s take a look at how he’d fit with this team.
The potential advantages of bringing in Beckham are pretty self evident. He’s been an electric wide receiver for much of his career, and there’s a reason why the Rams brought him in during the season last year as they publicly broadcast they were going all-in on the season.
That worked out well for the Rams, and Beckham would have a Super Bowl ring on his finger. Bringing in Beckham would also represent an adoption of the mindset that Dak Prescott had when recruiting Von Miller in the offseason.
Beckham has surpassed 1,000 receiving yards in five of his eight seasons in the NFL; of the three seasons he fell short of that mark, two saw Beckham miss significant time with injuries while the other saw Beckham switch teams midway through the year.
In adding Beckham, the Cowboys would have three legitimate weapons at receiver to strike fear in opposing defenses. CeeDee Lamb has yet to ascend to the dominance this team spoke of in the offseason - his 69.5 receiving yards per game ranks 15th in the league - but he’s accounted for just under 32% of the team’s targets, the third highest number in the NFL.
Lamb would likely still see a generous helping of targets even with Beckham on board, but it would be harder for defenses to bracket Lamb, as they’ve been doing much of the year. It also helps that Beckham is almost exclusively an outside receiver, thus allowing Lamb to play in the slot more often, which is his more natural alignment. The Rams had a similar dynamic last year when they added Beckham, with Cooper Kupp still being the focal point of the passing game and Beckham doing just enough to keep defenses honest.
The biggest con with Beckham comes down to the physical limitations. Michael Gallup tore his ACL on January 2 of this year and came back on October 2 to face the Commanders. That was considered a surprise because of how early he returned. Even then, Gallup didn’t look quite like himself, and is still working his way back to the kind of player he was before the injury.
Beckham tore his ACL a little over a month after Gallup tore his, so the timelines are about right if Beckham is indeed close to being medically cleared. Of course, that doesn’t even mean he’d be able to play right away, either. And whereas Gallup was on the Cowboys’ roster and in their offseason program through his rehab process, Beckham has been a free agent for his entire rehab process. It’s entirely possible that Beckham wouldn’t even see the field until December, depending on how quickly he gets acclimated to the team.
There’s also the question of whether Beckham is still the guy he once was. Beckham had at least 1,300 receiving yards and double-digit touchdowns in each of his first three years in the league, but he’s failed to hit either of those marks since then. He’s also suffered three serious injuries since then as well; Beckham fractured his ankle in his fourth season and the ACL he tore in the Super Bowl was actually the second time tearing that same ACL.
Even when Beckham has been healthy, though, he hasn’t been the stud he used to be. In the last five years, he’s averaged just 649 yards and four touchdowns per year. How much of that is due to injuries versus the caliber of quarterback Beckham played with will be a determination the Cowboys need to make before bringing him into the fold.
The prospect of signing Beckham involves factors beyond his ability on the field. To say Beckham has been a lightning rod in the locker room would be an understatement. His time in New York was littered with as many controversies as there were highlight plays, and that continued after Beckham was traded to the Browns.
Perhaps the most concerning instance is the timeline of events that got him released by the Browns last season. The relationship between Beckham and quarterback Baker Mayfield soured very quickly in Cleveland, and it involved Beckham freelancing his routes and then complaining that he wasn’t getting the ball. Given everything else that has transpired with both Mayfield and that franchise since, it’s possible that Beckham just wasn’t in the best environment.
None of these controversies are especially egregious on their own, but it’s still an accumulation of events that has earned Beckham a reputation as a diva. That persona would seemingly fly in the face of the identity McCarthy has established with the Cowboys. Furthermore, the kind of distractions Beckham has routinely caused in his previous stops could threaten to derail a team that’s seemingly hitting their stride at the moment.
Strictly from a football perspective, Beckham seems like an obvious fit with the Cowboys: he’s an experienced veteran receiver who could complement Lamb and Gallup and upgrade an offense that’s been inconsistent all year. But there are other factors - namely, health and culture fit - that could result in such a move backfiring in the worst way. This is one situation where it’s a good thing the Cowboys love to do their due diligence.