Baker to Beckham: Are Browns Bound For Playoffs?

Bill Enright

August 27th was just about seven months ago. That’s the day the Giants and wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. agreed to a 5-year, $90 million contract. It was the largest contract ever for a wide receiver.

Shortly after the 2018 season, Giants General Manager Dave Gettleman made it very clear the Giants did not sign Beckham Jr. to that big contract simply to trade him. You can watch Gettleman say those exact words by skipping to about the 20:15 mark on the below video:

That press conference was only two months ago.

Yet here we are, March 12th and the Giants have shipped the wide receiver and his $90 million contract to the Cleveland Browns in exchange for a 2019 first round pick (17th overall), 2019 third round pick, and safety Jabrill Peppers.

Beckham Jr. joins a Browns squad that is loaded with young offensive talent. Starting with Baker Mayfied who had a terrific rookie season according to our Quality Stats. Cleveland was struggling at the beginning of last season with Tyrod Taylor under center but quickly improved once Mayfield took over. The Browns finished 13th in Real Passing Yards Per Attempt after ranking 30th earlier in the season. They also jumped from 30th to 20th in our Real QB Rating metric.

Beckham Jr. will also reunite with his college teammate and best friend, Jarvis Landry, who was signed by the Browns last year. Beckham Jr. and Landry are arguably the best 1-2 combo in the entire NFL now that Antonio Brown left JuJu Smith-Schuster in Pittsburgh. Cleveland has a loaded backfield as well with 2018 breakout rookie Nick Chubb and recently signed and still suspended Kareem Hunt. Plus David Njoku is one of the league’s up-and-coming stars at the tight end position.

To put it bluntly… the Browns are no longer the factory of sadness we’ve  come to expect.

Instead, that moniker may now belong to the once respected and prestigious franchise that just shipped Beckham Jr. to Cleveland.

With just eight wins the last two years and five losing seasons in the last six, the Giants are quickly turning into a laughing stock. They are publicly committed to 38-year-old quarterback Eli Manning despite a glaring decline in ability. They just traded what some consider the most dangerous receiver in all of football and instead are left with running back Saquon Barkley as the team’s next best receiver.

The Giants finished one spot ahead of the Browns in our Real QB Rating in 2018, but considering it was Baker Mayfield’s first season in the NFL and Eli Manning’s 15th, it’s pretty clear which direction each passer is trending. In fact, the Browns were better in a few of our passing Quality Stats including 13th with 6.55 Real Passing Yards Per Attempt compared to the Giants which were 17th with 6.42. Beckham Jr. will undoubtedly help the Browns have an even better RPYA in 2019, after-all he has averaged 92.8 yards per game in his first five seasons, second most all time.

What should you expect from the Baker to Beckham Jr. connection in 2019? A lot of scoring off slant routes. In fact, as Warren Sharp of SharpFootball points out, Baker and Beckham slant route connection will certainly yield some big time plays for the Browns.

With the Bengals in absolute shambles, the Ravens losing several key defenders to free agency, and the Steelers dealing with drama, is this the season the Browns take back the AFC North?