Odell Beckham Jr. made a statement recently, “I believe that I will be hopefully not just the highest-paid receiver in the league, but the highest-paid, period.”
Odell Beckham Jr.’s Value
Everyone knows that quarterbacks have held the title as being the highest paid and earning the most money because the league and those apart of it always say it’s the most valuable position. Teams are always looking for their franchise quarterback, the one that will change the history of their franchise. So why would a wide receiver even think he should be in the same category as such a highly sought out position?
Bradford, the last top QB to benefit from those ridiculous rookie contracts, and who has never been to the playoffs, is scheduled to earn $18M this season, only $800k less than Super Bowl winning Russell Wilson and $200k less than Ben Roethlisberger.
Just before the start of last season, Bradford ranked last in almost every stat for quarterbacks that started at least 60 games since 2010. The one stat that he actually managed to rank higher than anyone was in completion percentage; ranking 19th out of 20. Last year he signed a $18M/year contract with those numbers.
20 QBs have started at least 60 gms since Bradford entered the league. Sammy's ranks:
— Joe Giglio (@JoeGiglioSports) February 29, 2016
Bradford threw 20 touchdowns (2nd best of career) last season and was hailed for having the highest completion percentage and best statistical season of his career as the Vikings started 5-0, but after their bye week, they lost 4 straight. Why? Bradford managed to average a passer rating of 92.12 during that 4 game stretch, but they still lost. Looking more closely at the team that was on the field, you realize the difference between the Vikings that started off hot vs. the one that cooled off was their defense.
The Vikings weren’t able to get as many turnovers as they did during the beginning of the season, resulting in a mediocre team overall. Bradford was never the reason for the team’s success, he just benefited from playing the position that many deem invaluable. But if you ask the Eagles, they were happy to trade a veteran QB like Bradford for an unproven rookie from an unknown school. In fact, after putting together the best season of his career, stats-wise, the Vikings only ranked 23rd for points per game. Denver ranked 2 spots ahead of them all while paying their quarterbacks a combined $3M vs Bradford’s $18M.
Romo, one of the most statistically successful QB’s without a Super Bowl, has been the Dallas Cowboys’ franchise player for years until his recent retirement. In 2015 due to injury, he was replaced by journeymen at quarterback and the Cowboys suffered a horrible season by only winning one game in Romo’s absence. The Cowboys looked horrible and it was another reminder of how invaluable quarterbacks are. Then the very next season, Romo got hurt again, and rookie Dak Prescott took center stage.
As Prescott played we learned something important that season; the Cowboys actually didn’t need Romo to win. They needed a better game plan that relied on running the ball. It actually makes sense, because even in Romo’s best season they relied heavily on running the ball, specifically on DeMarco Murray, who led the league in rushing yards that season. So in 2016, even when Romo was deemed healthy enough to play again, the Cowboys chose not to play their franchise QB; instead, they put all their playoff hopes in the hands of a rookie, running back Ezekiel Elliott.
He absolutely dominated with the 3rd most rushing TD’s, the most rushing yards for any RB, and was the real reason behind Dallas’ offensive success. Based on the current pay system, let’s say that Dak and Ezekiel continue to average their rookie numbers, do you think Dak should be paid more than Ezekiel? Jerry Jones has said it many times, Tony Romo is hard to replace, and they weren’t too worried about letting DeMarco walk so it’s clear which position they value more. But when they’re both up for their next contract, which position will mean more?
Osweiler was paid extremely well for playing 8 games in 2015. During that span, his completion percentage was only 61.8, he racked up a QBR of 59.9 and averaged 7.2 yards per throw. His numbers were horrendous and in playing in 8 games, he threw 6 interceptions, but because of his position, he was able to earn $18M a year for minimal games played; not even a full season of play. The Denver Broncos didn’t see the evaluation that he was putting on himself after posting such mediocre numbers; yet, the Houston Texans, so desperate for any QB to play for them, were willing to pay anything hoping to get good results. After one season, Osweiler is no longer part of their team.
You can debate forever if Odell should be the highest paid player, but the real debate is whether he should be paid as a top player regardless of position. Just because you’re the best player doesn’t mean you’re going to be paid the most money in the league, other factors come into play, but your salary shouldn’t be lowered or predetermined because of an old system, especially when players like Brock Osweiler or Sam Bradford haven’t done much, if anything, to warrant the money they’ve been paid. That’s the part that so many are missing; how much money have these players actually earned?
Not too long ago, rookies were paid a ridiculous amount of money right off the bat without stepping a foot on the field. Football is a sport that so many players, fans, and coaches all talk about their pride being displayed on the field, and that the sport eliminates all other factors in life because when you step on that field all that matters is your will against another’s. Yet for years, that mantra wasn’t being followed when it came to rookie salaries and so it was eventually changed because they didn’t earn the money they made.
Now we come to a point where we’re talking about positional salaries. What’s so different about changing this rule? Why is it so hard for anyone associated with football to realize that players should be paid their worth? That’s really what Odell wants and I agree with him.
He has broken record after record, and on pace to break even more all while playing on a rookie contract. He’s only 24, hasn’t reached the prime of his career, and is already considered one of the best players in the league if not the best. He’s earned the right to be paid for the performance he puts on the field game after game, so why shouldn’t he get it?
The Quarterback’s Value: Position vs Player
Matt Flynn and Brock Osweiler are two of the most well-known players that only had to play a handful of games and were rewarded with big quarterback money. While a consistent and sensational player like Le’Veon Bell has put in years of on-field performance and still has not made the type of money that mediocre QBs get.
LeSean McCoy was the highest paid running back until recently when Le’Veon signed the franchise tag. McCoy will earn $8M this season, the equivalent of Flynn’s annual salary almost 5 years ago, and starting QB’s are now paid on average double what Flynn made.
Matt Flynn showed glimmers of greatness in the Green Bay system; so much so that he has made an enormous amount of money to become a starter at the position but has always been delegated to the backup role once he actually arrived at camp.
It wasn’t just one team that relied on his short lived success, there have been 2 (Seahawks and Raiders). The Seahawks signed him to a 3-year deal, only to trade him when a 3rd round rookie supplanted him from the starting position. The Raiders were the ones to trade for him, only to restructure his contract twice in a matter of months before a single game was played as a result of his poor performance during practice.
Let this be known. Let’s say Odell Beckham Jr. has another Pro Bowl season, leads the Giants to a playoff berth, and possibly a division title. If he can cut out the sideline antics, and pithy dramatic dialogue, then Odell should be given a legitimate shot at becoming the highest paid player in the NFL.