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Cowboys point/counterpoint: The Odell Beckham visit was just theater

The trip to Dallas was more about next year than this year for the Cowboys.

Phoenix Suns v Dallas Mavericks
It was just a recruitment with a little schmooze.
Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images

You can relax. No need to hold your breath now that Odell Beckham Jr has come and gone from the Star. There is no sign of an imminent deal with the Dallas Cowboys or other teams. Once again, the staff has failed to take a more aggressive approach to the roster as the team heads for the playoffs.

Or did it? Our Tom Ryle and David Howman don their investigative hats and consider this from different perspectives.

Tom: How many times do we have to see this happen? Big name free agent and Cowboys reported to be interested in each other, hype builds and spreads through sports media like lightning because, Cowboys, important date or deadline comes and goes, nothing has happened in Dallas, everyone starts looking for the next free agent tease. I was never fully convinced that the OBJ romance was in earnest. Recent stories about the medical concerns of the Cowboys just reinforce that. I think the team was at least 98% certain they were not going to try and close a deal going in. It all was a play for the media, the fans, and maybe for the league as a whole.

David: You’re not wrong that every high profile free agent gets connected to the Cowboys at one point or another, but this was noticeably different. Earl Thomas and Jamal Adams never went to Mavericks games with a couple of star players, and they never came in for a two day visit with the team like Beckham just did. I think there was very legitimate interest from both sides, and I think there was a reason why Beckham’s agent scheduled two other team visits before coming to Dallas.

I believe the Cowboys want OBJ, and having seen his body of work why wouldn’t they? But the Cowboys front office is also notoriously cautious, and I think what we’ve seen play out is just a reflection of that. Beckham is still recovering from a torn ACL - and it’s actually the second time he’s torn this particular ACL - so the physical aspect is vitally important. Dallas rightfully wants to see Beckham go through some physical tests before they give him any money - especially considering the receiver reportedly wants a multi-year deal - and the fact that he apparently declined to go through those tests was enough to put the whole thing on ice.

That said, OBJ isn’t off the market either. The Cowboys will certainly keep in touch with him, and if Beckham can come back and show that he’s physically back, a deal will become a priority. But for right now, this just seems like the Cowboys being their usual cautious selves, which is a good thing in this case.

Tom: You are right about the value of the medicals and the need for something like a performance test. I just think Dallas knew in advance he was not going to do any, and that alone probably was enough to ensure OBJ would be leaving without a deal. It makes sense to take a long look during the medical evaluation. This was just so much furor. The trip to the Mavericks game and all the schmoozing with Cowboys players past and present had nothing to do with closing a deal. It was just a bit of salesmanship, admittedly very heavy handed.

The medical exam and the public display were two entirely different efforts. They had to run in parallel because they couldn’t know in advance if the medical results would favor him or eliminate the possibility of his signing. It also is pretty crucial to determining just how soon OBJ might be able to contribute. So there was a core of actual business to this. But it was mostly special effects.

David: I think the public spectacle of it all largely has to do with Beckham himself, too. He’s a very high profile player, for better or worse, and he needs to be wooed. The Giants and Bills engaged in similar tactics, but it didn’t get as much publicity because, as you mentioned earlier, Cowboys. We’ve seen the Cowboys go after other players during the season without all the drama - look back to earlier this year with Jason Peters - but OBJ demands that kind of hype. If that’s the price to pay to get him in the door, and if the Cowboys needed to get him in the door to determine whether or not he’d be a realistic signing, then of course they’ll fan the flame. This is America’s Team, after all.

I also think one factor that has gone under the radar is how the Cowboys aren’t necessarily in a position of desperation right now. It would be one thing if Dallas was coming off some poor offensive performances, as they were back in 2018 when they gave up a premium draft pick for Amari Cooper. But the Cowboys have been lighting up defenses ever since they got Dak Prescott back. They’ve had three different 40-burgers in Prescott’s six games back, and they’ve done it without OBJ.

This is not a team that needs OBJ, and they know it. As such, they can afford to be a little picky when it comes to his medical status. It’s not like Beckham can say “Good luck scoring points without me.” That puts the ball back in the Cowboys’ court, and may have been another reason why they were okay with such public flirtation in the first place.

Tom: When I take a look at all this, it is more about trying to see this kind of stuff coming in advance. The hype is very much overhype for all the reasons mentioned. It’s not that the ownership wants to make it a circus. It’s that they have no idea how NOT to. Cameras and microphones are the irresistible lure for them. They will be asked something and then make sure there are plenty of words to dissect, but very little actual information.

Maybe this is not done and they are actually considering bringing Beckham on just for the playoffs. Or this is more about getting some channels open for discussing a 2023 deal. In any case, it did what these always do, keep the Cowboys front and center for the media and fans alike, then fade away as the next hot topic comes off the griddle.

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