CLEVELAND (AP) – Odell Beckham Jr. is about to run a deep route out of New Jersey – straight to Cleveland.
The superstar wide receiver is bound for the Browns to be a target for quarterback Baker Mayfield as the centerpiece of a blockbuster trade, two people familiar with the deal told The Associated Press on Tuesday night.
The Browns are sending first- and third-round picks this year along with safety Jabrill Peppers to the Giants for Beckham, one of the NFL’s top players, said the people who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because league rules prohibit teams from announcing trades until 4 p.m. Wednesday.
The deal is conditional on both players passing physicals.
With the Browns, Beckham will be reunited with receiver Jarvis Landry, a close friend and teammate at LSU. He’ll also give Mayfield an elite weapon, and his arrival could vault the Browns, who went 7-8-1 last season after not winning a game in 2017, into legitimate championship contenders.
Rumors of a possible deal have swirled for weeks, with several Browns players teasing a major move by Cleveland general manager John Dorsey on social media. Dorsey pulled it off, bringing a major talent to accelerate his attempt to rebuild the Browns into consistent winners. Cleveland hasn’t been to the playoffs since 2002.
The trade is the second major one involving a star wide receiver in four days as the Pittsburgh Steelers recently sent Antonio Brown to the Oakland Raiders.
While Beckham is immensely talented, there is some baggage as he can be temperamental and difficult. He was suspended for one game for his on-field battles with Carolina cornerback Josh Norman. He also comes off two injury-plagued years. Before last season, he became the league’s highest-paid receiver with a five-year, $90 million contract extension.
He played five seasons in New York, making the Pro Bowl in his first three. He was the AP Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2014.
It’s the second trade completed in the past week by the Giants and Browns. Cleveland sent guard Kevin Zeitler to New York for edge rusher Olivier Vernon, who will now play on the opposite side of Pro Bowler Myles Garrett.
The Giants had been reluctant to trade Beckham, with GM Dave Gettleman insisting over the past few months that the club did not sign him to the historic deal in late August to trade him. But the Browns were persistent and Dorsey, who has remolded the Browns since coming to Cleveland at the end of 2017, came up with a package the Giants simply couldn’t resist.
“John Dorsey is officially a genius…” tweeted Browns defensive back Damarious Randall.
And now new Browns coach Freddie Kitchens has another playmaker for Mayfield, the No. 1 overall pick last year who had a dazzling debut season in which he set the NFL record for touchdown passes by a rookie.
Kitchens will have to try to keep Beckham in check, something Giants coach Pat Shurmur struggled to do. Early last season, with the Giants off to another bad start, Beckham seemed upset with his role in Shurmur’s new offense and said quarterback Eli Manning was not capable of throwing deep passes.
Mayfield and Beckham are already tight; they spent part of last summer working out in California with Landry, who has been campaigning since he arrived in Cleveland for his former college teammate to join him.
When news of the agreement broke, Mayfield posted a photo on Twitter of him shaking hands with Beckham. “Movement” was the caption.
Dorsey has had a busy offseason, signing troubled running back Kareem Hunt to a one-year contract, trading for Vernon and agreeing to a three-year, $39 million deal with defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson.
Landing Beckham is his signature move, a signal that he believes the Browns are on the verge of a Super Bowl run.
Many were expecting the Giants to take a step forward after going 5-11 in Shurmur’s first season. They were looking to improve their offensive line, get some pass rushers and shore up the defense, which struggled in coordinator James Bettcher’s switch to a 3-4 front.
In the past week, the next step has turned into a rebuild.
Vernon was dealt, and the team did not put a franchise tag on safety Landon Collins. Instead, the catalyst of the defense and leading tackler each of the last four seasons is about to sign with NFC East rival Washington.
With the trade of Beckham, the offense has lost its top playmaker, although one could argue the Giants started shifting that role to halfback Saquon Barkley last season. Barkley beat out Mayfield for Offensive Rookie of the Year.
Complicating the situation: The Giants haven’t figured out their quarterback situation. Manning is 38 and the team has only made the playoffs once since winning the Super Bowl in February 2012.
But the Giants have three of the top 37 draft picks in April, and 12 overall. They have their eye on taking a franchise quarterback, perhaps Oklahoma Heisman Trophy Kyler Murray or Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins.
Peppers, who is from New Jersey, will help fill the void left by Collins’ departure. A first-round pick in 2017, he struggled as a rookie but bounced back and played well last season.