Disconnect: Browns cut ties with OBJ, end drama-filled stay

National Sports
Odell Beckham Jr.

Cleveland Browns wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. walks off the field after an NFL football game against the Arizona Cardinals, Sunday, Oct. 17, 2021, in Cleveland. Beckham Jr. has been excused from practice for the second straight day as the Cleveland Browns figure out their next move with the polarizing wide receiver, a person familiar with the situation told The Associated Press on Thursday, Nov. 4, 2021. (AP Photo/David Richard)

CLEVELAND (AP) — Odell Beckham’s final target with the Browns was a pass thrown to him late, high and out of his reach.

He tried catching it with one hand.

Another incompletion, and like OBJ’s time with Cleveland, a failure.

Out of patience with Beckham’s antics and attitude, the Browns on Friday said they’re releasing the polarizing star wide receiver, whose arrival 2 1/2 years ago triggered a celebration and spawned wild expectations never met.

Beckham’s unceremonious exit — still not official — came on his 29th birthday and days after his father shared an 11-minute video on social media highlighting plays on which Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield didn’t throw him the ball.

Beckham was excused from two days of practice while his agents tried to work out an amicable parting with general manager Andrew Berry as the Browns (4-4) were preparing to play a critical game on Sunday in Cincinnati.

“This really is not about the video,” Berry said a few hours after the Browns announced the breakup. “It’s really about a series of discussions, certainly over the last week but even spanning back longer than that.”

Beckham wanted out of Cleveland almost from the time he was acquired in a 2019 blockbuster trade from the New York Giants. He asked to be traded several times, and now has his wish. Sort of.

It was supposed to be so different. The Browns thought Beckham could be the final piece, the game-changing playmaker for Mayfield, capable of transforming the offense and leading Cleveland to Super Bowls. Instead, Beckham was injured, frustrated and mostly used as a decoy.

“I don’t think anyone envisioned when the organization traded for Odell three years ago that this would really be the resolution,” said Berry, who inherited Beckham after former GM John Dorsey pulled off the trade.

“It’s unfortunate, but at the same time there are some situations in the NFL where things just don’t quite work out.”

The Browns didn’t appreciate the video or that Beckham never reached out to Mayfield or coach Kevin Stefanski, who often praised his work ethic in an arduous recovery from knee surgery.

Berry did speak with Beckham, but didn’t disclose the nature of their conversations.

Once the sides finalize financial terms — Beckham is owed $8 million this season — Beckham will be waived and can be claimed by any team with enough salary-cap space. If he clears the waiver wire, which probably won’t happen until early next week, he’ll be a free agent and can sign anywhere.

It’s possible Beckham could stay in the AFC or wind up in Cleveland’s division. That might worry some fans, but Browns star defensive end Myles Garrett isn’t concerned.

“It might happen. I’m not scared of it,” Garrett said. “There’s great receivers everywhere that we have to worry about, and if he goes to another good receiving corps, then we have to step up and prepare for it.

“We know what he can do. We see it on the practice field all the time. No need to worry about the possibility, Twitter’s going to make up enough stories.”

Garrett was shocked by the speed of Beckham’s departure.

“It was quicker than anyone expected,” Garrett said. “I wish we got a little bit more communication between upper management and the players, a little bit more knowledge of what was going on because it seemed just like it happened overnight.

“Things just like kind of snowballed.”

Now that Beckham’s gone, the Browns can put their full attention on the Bengals (5-3). Coincidentally, it was at Cincinnati in Week 7 last season when Beckham suffered a season-ending knee injury and Mayfield threw five touchdown passes.

Garrett thinks this saga could unite the Browns.

“I think it will bring us together,” said the league’s sacks leader. “It did the first time he went out, even though that was against anyone’s wishes, but we found a way and I think this year we’re going to do the same thing.”

One of the NFL’s most talented receivers, Beckham has also been one of its most irksome.

Although he insisted he was happy in Cleveland, where he was reunited with former college teammate and close friend Jarvis Landry, Beckham didn’t seem to like not being in a big market. He reportedly told opponents on the field during pregame warmups to “come get me” in the offseason.

Beckham seemed to fall in line last season under Stefanski, but he never made a strong on-field connection with Mayfield, and their lack of chemistry was a constant topic.

When Beckham got hurt last October, it appeared to free up Mayfield, who played better without the playmaker and led the Browns to their first playoff appearance in 18 seasons and first postseason win since 1994.

This season started ominously as Beckham, who had just two 100-yard games with Cleveland, was set to play in the opener at Kansas City before telling the Browns he couldn’t shortly before kickoff, forcing them to alter their game plan.

The final straw came Sunday in a loss to Pittsburgh as Beckham caught just one pass and was noticeably upset while walking off the field with Garrett, who tried to console his friend — and now former teammate.

“I want the best for him and I want to see him prosper and I never want to see him down like that,” Garrett said. “I just threw my arm around him to try tell him that whatever happens we’re going to be all right.”

The Browns are about to find out if that’s true.

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