Mike Preston: Odell Beckham Jr. is a gamble the Ravens had to make | COMMENTARY

Dire situations require desperate actions, and the Ravens made one Sunday in announcing they agreed to a one-year contract reportedly worth up to $18 million with veteran wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr.

It is not known if the Ravens made the move to placate or further distance themselves in negotiations with star quarterback Lamar Jackson — though since he and Beckham were on FaceTime with each other minutes after the announcement, it’s probably the former — but the addition of Beckham has to make them better.


Let’s just call it another gamble by the Ravens in signing another wide receiver past his prime. Beckham apparently got the blessing of new offensive coordinator Todd Monken, who coached the star wideout in 2019 when both were with the Cleveland Browns.

Unlike the Browns, the Ravens have been considered one of the NFL’s model franchises ever since they won the first of two Super Bowl titles in 2000. But if this Beckham deal doesn’t work out and the Ravens fall quickly in the postseason (again), there will be a lot of doubt about the leadership of general manager Eric DeCosta.

In eight NFL seasons, Beckham has an impressive resume. He was the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2014, has been named an All-Pro twice and to the Pro Bowl three times, and has 531 career receptions for 7,367 yards and 56 touchdowns.

But he also has more baggage than BWI Marshall Airport.

He has been fined by the league several times for his touchdown celebrations, improper game day attire and various unsportsmanlike conduct penalties, including an incident in 2019 when, while with the Browns, he threw a punch at Ravens cornerback Marlon Humphrey, who responded by choking him.

More recently, bodycam footage in November showed Beckham being asked to leave an American Airlines plane in Miami because they thought he was ill. He refused and eventually was escorted off the flight to Los Angeles after getting into a verbal argument with one man.

Ravens coach John Harbaugh has struggled to deal with high-maintenance players, and on some days, Beckham can make cornerback Marcus Peters look like Mr. Sunshine.

And then there are the injuries.

There are the usual ones like quads and hamstrings, but Beckham has had three major surgeries. He fractured an ankle in 2017, tore his ACL in 2020 and then tore it again in Super Bowl 56 while with the Los Angeles Rams.

He hasn’t played a game since that February 2022 victory, but that didn’t stop the Ravens from making a preemptive strike on Beckham, who was expected to visit the New York Jets starting late Sunday night.

If he can stay healthy, and that’s a big if, he should be able to help the Ravens. After signing a one-year deal with the Rams on Nov. 11, 2021, Beckham caught 51 passes for 593 yards and seven touchdowns. He has never had great speed, which makes him a perfect fit alongside the other Ravens wideouts who have good hands but can’t get open.

Maybe the addition of Beckham and former New England Patriot Nelson Agholor can help change the dynamic of a receiving corps that was one of the worst in the NFL last season and has been for several years now.

The Ravens have Rashod Bateman on one side and maybe Agholor or Beckham on the other, depending on which one Monken wants to use in the slot. The Ravens have two talented tight ends who can work the deep middle of the field in Mark Andrews and Isaiah Likely and also another burner on the outside in Devin Duvernay.

The Ravens’ running back situation should be more stable with both J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards another year removed from major knee surgery. The real question is who is going to be throwing the ball? Did the Ravens sign Beckham because Jackson is no longer in the picture and this team desperately needed some star power, or is Beckham part of a plan to ditch the run-oriented scheme and go to a more standard drop-back offense?

Or was Beckham part of the plot to bring Jackson back to the negotiating table and get him to at least sign the nonexclusive franchise tag that will pay him $32.4 million for the 2023 season?

Regardless, Monken has to put this offense together. Even though he spent the past two seasons at Georgia as the Bulldogs’ coordinator, there is more belief in him developing an attacking scheme than his predecessor, Greg Roman.

Beckham has better credentials than former Ravens wide receivers Demarcus Robinson and Sammy Watkins combined, but at age 30 and with his injury history, he certainly isn’t the Beckham of old who once lit up the NFL.

Jackson? He could be anywhere in the solar system, but one thing is certain: He is a better runner than passer.

As for DeCosta, this deal better work out. He has already drawn national criticism — undeserved, however — for the delay in signing Jackson, and the Ravens can’t get away from that decades-old problem of not having a good No. 1 wide receiver.

Even with Beckham, they still don’t have one, but they needed to gamble with a former star who still has something to prove.

They were desperate.


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