The Cleveland Browns are 4-4 and tied for the final playoff spot in the AFC at the midway point of the season. Typically, that would be cause for celebration in Cleveland, but after finally breaking through with not just a postseason appearance but a playoff win last year in Pittsburgh, the Browns entered 2021 with real expectations to be a Super Bowl contender for the first time in a long time.
As such, the 4-4 start has felt like a letdown and with injuries piling up, including to quarterback Baker Mayfield, there hasn’t been a lot of cause for optimism that this season will meet those preseason expectations. Adding fuel to the fire has been the return of Odell Beckham Jr. to the lineup this season and, with it, the ever present question of whether the Browns are using him properly or if Mayfield is targeting him enough. With just 17 catches for 262 yards in six appearances, many have questioned why Mayfield won’t do more to get OBJ the ball.
Among those to do so this week was Beckham’s father, who shared a video a Browns/Beckham fan made that is 11 minutes of OBJ being open and either not getting a target or Baker missing him. It caused quite the stir in Cleveland ahead of the trade deadline and after the Browns failed to deal Beckham on Tuesday, he’s been excused from practice the last two days. Finally, on Friday, a resolution was met and the Browns granted OBJ his release, allowing him to hit the waiver wire and, one would assume, ultimately free agency.
Given his salary, it seems unlikely that Beckham will be claimed on waivers, which means that he’s going to be one of the most fascinating in-season free agents in recent memory. There will be plenty of teams interested in adding the former All-Pro, and one would expect him to be choosing a contender to go to — which, of course, sets up the possibility for an OBJ revenge game down the line agains the Browns.
For Cleveland, they seem ready to move on which might be best for all parties, but no matter what happens from here with Baker and the passing offense, the discussion will still circle back to OBJ. If the Browns hit their stride offensively without him, it’ll be a referendum on how Beckham was the problem. If they continue to flounder, it’ll be about how he was right and Baker’s the issue.