CLEVELAND, Ohio — If the Browns are 100% committed to Baker Mayfield — and all signs say they are — they should let Odell Beckham Jr. seek a trade.
During Sunday’s 38-6 loss to the Ravens, Beckham and Mayfield picked up where they left off last season, connecting on only three of 10 targets for 23 yards, tied for the second-lowest yardage output in his career.
The disconnect is still there, and it’s real.
Beckham once again offered time on task as the solution, but the season is upon us, and there’s no time for that. The Bengals are coming to town on Thursday night and it’s another pivotal AFC North game. An 0-2 start is almost a kiss of death for making the playoffs.
“Obviously, Sunday wasn’t what we wanted … but more game reps will be the way to go,” Beckham said on a Zoom conference Tuesday.
Beckham sang that refrain all last season, and it never changed. Most of Beckham’s least productive games in the NFL have come since he’s been paired up with Mayfield.
* His 23 yards marked the fourth time in 17 Browns games that Beckham has produced yardage in the 20s — 23.5% of his time here. To put that in perspective, in 59 games with the Giants, he had only two games in the 20s — 3.3% of the time.
* Six times in his 17 games here he’s had three catches or fewer — 35% of his games. In New York, he had three catches or fewer only three times in 59 games — 5% of his games.
His lack of production in the AFC North has been particularly concerning, with 21 receptions for 296 yards and two touchdowns in seven games, three of which were victories. That’s an average of three catches for 42 yards, which is far less than the Browns anticipated when they traded first- and third-round picks and Jabrill Peppers for him.
In Baltimore, Beckham, a three-time Pro Bowler, didn’t get the ball until about four minutes into the second quarter, and by then he was already frustrated. He was flagged for a facemask penalty on his first target, and then dropped a crucial third-and-2 pass in the red zone that could’ve helped close the gap to 17-13 late in the first half.
He admitted that he likes to get involved early.
“It’s like a shooter putting up a couple 3s early and you hit one, two of them, like, God knows you might drop 60, you know what I mean?” Beckham said of early receptions. “I would love to get involved early, but it just didn’t go that way Sunday. And like I said, you’ve got to give your hats off to the other team sometimes. They just came out and they just played better than us.”
Beckham was at a loss to explain why he and Mayfield lack chemistry, but Mayfield didn’t exactly light it up with anyone else either. He completed only 53.8% of his passes and earned a 65.0 rating after throwing one touchdown pass and one interception.
“I’ve never played quarterback, so it’s very hard to put yourself in someone else’s shoes,” Beckham said. “As a receiver, you’re like ‘man, I’m open!’ or this or that, and that’s just not feasible for me to think about what he may be going through back there or if there’s pressure or if there’s things going on.
“I know there’s a lot on his plate. I know that none of us played the way that we would have wanted to play on Sunday. You kind of just have to give your hats off to the Ravens. They came out there, they were the better team, they beat the [expletive] out of us and we keep it pushing.”
While Beckham was talking, Mike Francesa of WFAN radio in New York was tweeting that he hears the Browns are shopping the receiver and that he won’t come cheap. He also stated Beckham isn’t the problem, implying that Mayfield is.
A major problem is Beckham’s cap hit this year of $14.25 million. Most teams are cap-strapped at this point, so a trade isn’t easy.
But Beckham has professed his admiration many times for Bill Belichick, and he’s very close to Patriots quarterback Cam Newton, with whom he worked out in the offseason. The Patriots have the second-most cap space to the Browns at $31.627 million, so they could certainly afford him.
Beckham also loves Tom Brady, but the Bucs have only $3.651 million in cap space. They’re also set at receiver.
Beckham stressed that he only wants to win, and that raising his hand isn’t about reaching his individual goals.
“It’s a tough position to be in with the way that I feel like I’ve been misrepresented to the world,” Beckham said. “It makes it hard to just seem as if ,’Oh, I just want the ball’ and all these things when really, I just want to help. I just want to be able to help this team in any way that I can.
“You kind of get the sense of just playing your role and you have to trust that the coaches are going to put you in the right position and we’re gonna be able to go from there. I’m not very vocal about that thing and that could be my fault and something I need to learn from. Like I said, it’s the first game.”
He acknowledged that he must be careful with his body language during games, so it doesn’t appear he’s pouting.
“That’s just the way my life’s gone,” he said. “You have to watch everything you do. If you don’t have the same reaction someone may like, you may have a headline written about you. The spotlight’s going to be on me, right, wrong or indifferent.”
Mayfield noted that he, Beckham and Kevin Stefanski must work together to correct the problem.
“It takes all three of us just being on the same page,” Mayfield said. “For myself, going through my reads, trusting those reads and delivering the ball based on what those reads are telling me. I think we had some great one-on-one opportunities on some of those passes from Sunday but just did not connect. Some of those were the penalties, the grabs and the pass interference that we talked about.
“We are working on that so we will get it fixed.”
Mayfield said any appearance of forcing the ball to Beckham — especially on the opening drive of the third quarter when he went to him six times — was simply going where the reads take him.
“Based on if you guys were to watch it, there were a lot of one on ones, and we take our one-on-one matchups,” he said. “I trust those guys, and that’s what they’re paid to do is one-on-one plays. … It might have looked [like forcing], but that is a one-on-one matchup.”
Mayfield admitted that “it has to come naturally. Obviously, you gameplan and you scheme up things to get the ball in your playmakers’ hands, but when it comes to game time, they’re going to give us certain looks that might take it that away. We had a couple plays for him early on, and the Ravens did a good job of taking that away so we had to go through the reads and get the ball into other guys’ hands.
“When it comes to game time, yeah, you can practice, practice, practice and you might have a certain look all week in practice, but then come game time they might show you a different thing and you have to react, play and just move on. It has to come naturally.”
He acknowledged that going to Beckham even when singled up might not be the right decision. The Ravens’ Pro Bowl corners, Marlon Humphrey and Marcus Peters, won their share of those matchups, and there were often better places to go with the ball.
“Yeah, that’s when the alert goes off in your head that we have a one-on-one with him and you want to get him the ball, but it has to be the right scenario and the right situation for us to do that,” he said.
We heard the same thing last season, and a frustrated Beckham isn’t good for the Browns.
The time may have come for them to let him try to find a new home.
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