The hypotheticals were discussed. So many get tossed around inside NFL front offices at all points of the calendar. Most don’t ever come close to a reality.
Discussions about how the Browns would attack the start of the league year began all the way back in December, but it wasn’t until a phone call between general manager John Dorsey and Giants senior vice president and general manager Dave Gettleman on Tuesday afternoon when everything regarding a potential trade for All-Pro wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. really started to line up.
It went from one of thousands of ideas tossed around the War Room to an outlier just like that. The Browns were in business to land one of the NFL’s best players.
“Boys,” Dorsey said to those around him after the phone call, “we may be able to make this work.
“It was a hypothetical that sometimes you can plan for, but you can plan for stuff that 99 percent of the time does not transpire. This just so happened to be that 1 percent that your planning actually paid off.”
Take a look at a selection of photos of new Browns wideout Odell Beckham Jr., including ones from his time with new teammate Jarvis Landry back when they both attended LSU.
After a couple of more conversations, a deal was made. Combining two separate deals into one, the Browns landed Beckham and Pro Bowl pass rusher Olivier Vernon in exchange for offensive guard Kevin Zeitler, safety Jabrill Peppers and two draft picks, including Cleveland’s 2019 first-rounder.
Ultimately, it was a blockbuster deal -- which preceded four additional free agent signings -- that Dorsey believes takes the Browns closer to their goal of competing and winning the AFC North. Beckham, of course, is one of the biggest reasons why it’s closer today than it was before that memorable conversation Tuesday.
“You can’t have enough competitive football players,” Dorsey said. “We all understand the magnitude of his ability to play the game of football. He is a good football player, and you can’t have enough weapons around you. He is a really good asset to have on our football team.”
The magnetic, All-Pro wide receiver joins a Cleveland offense that finished the 2018 season with a surge. Guided by the play-calling of Freddie Kitchens and star rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield, the Browns had one of the league’s most explosive, efficient and downright entertaining offensive attacks over the final eight games.
Now, that unit includes Beckham, who has amassed more than 1,000 yards in four of his first five NFL seasons and produced countless highlight-reel catches. And to top it off, he’ll be playing alongside one of his best friends, Jarvis Landry, his former LSU teammate who led the Browns in receptions and yards in 2018.
“I know that they are best of friends. They are very competitive with each other,” Dorsey said. “I heard (former LSU and Kansas Head Coach) Les Miles talk about how those two would drive each other and push each other when they were at LSU to compete. I think it can only help each other because that competition brings out the best in any athlete, regardless of the sport.”
Beckham, who has averaged more than six catches per game since he entered the NFL with a bang in 2014, joins an offense that spread the wealth throughout the second half of the season. Landry and the team’s other top targets saw their personal numbers dip a bit as Mayfield distributed the ball to at least eight and sometimes 10 or 11 different players in a given game.
Dorsey believes Kitchens, who took the reins as head coach in January, has the right personality to keep everyone happy and focused on the task at hand.
“The one thing I love about Freddie, Freddie is very direct. He is very straightforward,” Dorsey said. “He is going to set expectations. He is going to hold players accountable. He is going to be the same guy day in and day out. You know what? Players respect him, and they respect that type of approach.”
The same optimism applies to how Mayfield will serve as the ringmaster of it all. The acquisition of Beckham simply falls in line with what Dorsey has set out to do ever since he tabbed Mayfield with the No. 1 pick less than a year ago.
Beckham just happens to be among the few in the NFL who can make a claim as the No. 1 player at the position.
“With Baker, he showed last year that he can step up to certain challenges. The object of this thing is to surround him with as many good football players as you possibly can,” Dorsey said. “It seems like Odell and Baker have a relationship formed. I am not sure where it formed, but they tell me that they have a relationship and that it is a good relationship. I am excited to see what the whole bunch can do.”