In a stunning, audacious move, the New York Giants today traded wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., the team’s most popular and talented player, to the Cleveland Browns for safety Jabrill Peppers and the Browns’ first- and third-round choices in next month’s college draft.
The deal, which cannot be completed until the new league year begins Wednesday, was confirmed by people with knowledge of the trade who were not authorized to discuss it.
It will be one of the biggest trades in the 94-year history of the typically staid Giants franchise and may prove to be one of the most controversial. Beckham’s spectacular acrobatic catches, stirring touchdown runs and provocative end zone dances made him a prominent and occasionally polarizing figure in New York and throughout the NFL. Nonetheless, since his rookie year in 2014, Beckham’s career, which has already included three Pro Bowl selections, was viewed as incandescent, and the Giants seemed to recognize that potential by rewarding Beckham with a five-year, $90 million contract extension last year.
But Beckham’s tenure with the Giants grew troubled soon after the contract was finalized as he appeared to express his displeasure in an interview with the direction of the team, which has had only one winning season since 2012. Rumors began to circulate that the Giants were willing to part with Beckham.
Giants leadership had denied Beckham was on the trading block with general manager Dave Gettleman insisting in recent weeks that the Giants “didn’t sign Odell to trade him.”
Gettleman added: “That’s all I need to say about that.”
But tonight, the trade with Cleveland was finalized. The Giants will get the 17th overall pick in the draft — they already own the sixth pick — and the 95th overall pick. Peppers, a native of New Jersey and the Browns’ first round choice in 2017, has one interception in 29 games for Cleveland, with 96 solo tackles.
The strongest part of Peppers’ skill set is tackling near the line of scrimmage, which makes him similar to Landon Collins, the safety the Giants allowed to enter free agency a few days ago. Collins, however, is a three-time Pro Bowler who agreed Monday to a three-year contract worth $45 million with the Washington Redskins.
Beckham, 26, leaves the Giants with 390 receptions for 5,476 yards and 44 touchdowns. He has averaged 14 yards a catch. Beckham will rejoin his former college teammate Jarvis Landry in Cleveland.
The trade of Beckham will put added scrutiny on the Giants’ decision-making in next month’s draft and during the free agency period. Beckham’s departure would seem to indicate that the team is girding for a period of rebuilding and no longer chasing a playoff berth. The Giants have also committed to 38-year-old Eli Manning as quarterback.
But the Giants still face challenges. Beckham will count $16 million against the team’s salary cap next season, and the roster lacks productive NFL caliber players at multiple pivotal positions.