The New York Giants and star wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. are nearing that line they have tiptoed around for months. It has them trying to avoid eye contact and confrontation, all the while doing it with an awkward smile.
The showdown is coming, maybe this week, more likely early this summer.
Beckham, who desperately wants a new contract, is almost healthy after breaking his leg in October. The Giants, who admittedly aren’t in a rush to pay him, said last week that Beckham could “possibly” be cleared for this week’s mandatory minicamp.
Giants players are set to undergo physicals Monday. Practices are scheduled Tuesday through Thursday before a six-week respite prior to the start of training camp. That at least gives the two sides some time. Except nothing that has happened so far indicates they will get a deal done.
It’s not outside the realm of possibility that doctors allow Beckham to do more this week than at OTAs. He has mostly worked on the side with a trainer and in a select few half-speed individual drills. Nothing strenuous. Nothing that would risk that $60 million or so in guaranteed money (in the range of what Tampa Bay wide receiver Mike Evans was paid) that sits on the horizon.
Beckham has made significant progress since suffering the injury. He’s close to full strength. But it still remains unlikely he’ll be cleared for contact this week. It’s just not worth it at this point on the calendar with so much at stake for both sides.
As Landon Collins, who underwent surgery on his right arm in April, explained: “I could be [cleared for minicamp], but at the same time, at the end of the day we still won’t take any risks. It’s minicamp -- we’re not playing for anything right now.”
The same holds true for Beckham. It would be in everybody’s best interest to avoid reaching that crossroads until at least later this summer, because when he’s cleared for contact, that is when the showdown will occur if there isn’t a new contract. And right now, with no significant talks taking place about a new deal, it appears almost inevitable.
Beckham wants a new deal before the start of this season. This is no secret. He doesn’t want to put his body at serious risk again -- this time for $8.5 million -- without a new deal after what happened last season, when he first injured his ankle in a preseason game and then watched his career flash before his eyes when his leg was shattered in a Week 5 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers.
The Giants have been more discreet about their intentions. They’ve said they want Beckham around long term but still haven’t talked seriously about a contract extension with their top playmaker.
“It will get done when it’s supposed to get done” has been their organizational stance since general manager Dave Gettleman arrived. But earlier this offseason -- when the Giants didn’t close the door on Beckham being traded -- co-owner John Mara said there was a “possibility” he could play 2018 on his current contract.
That wouldn’t go over well with Beckham, who has made a concerted effort this spring to prove to the Giants that he’s healthy and committed by attending a good chunk of the team’s offseason program. Players in similar contractual situations such as Aaron Donald, Zack Martin and Khalil Mack avoided OTAs as they awaited their new contracts.
Beckham, while in a different situation given his past indiscretions and the injury, handled it differently. In the process, he has built a strong relationship with Pat Shurmur in the early going of his new coach’s tenure. The two have been in constant contact and seem to understand where each side is coming from after a shaky start that saw Beckham pseudo-dangled on the trade block.
That should help if the two sides do reach a showdown that could get touchy and complicated. If it does, here are the notable checkpoints.
Tuesday to Thursday -- This week’s mandatory minicamp. Do the Giants ask Beckham to do more than has been the case the rest of the spring? That would be a mistake.
July 25 -- The likely start of training camp. Will Beckham show without a new deal? And even if he does, don’t expect him to jump right into full-contact drills. That would be an unnecessary risk he’s not going to take with the regular season still almost seven weeks away.
Aug. 9, 17 and 24 -- These are the dates for the first three preseason games. Can’t imagine Beckham will want to step on the field for any of these without a new contract, especially after getting injured last year in the second game of the preseason against the Browns.
Sept. 9 -- The season opener against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Beckham desperately wants to play, but this is his ultimate leverage if a deal is not done. Do the Giants really want to potentially sabotage their season and relationship with their best player by flirting with not having a deal done by this point?