Week 1 of the NFL season is the perfect time to overreact. All of a sudden, Mitchell Trubisky might be the guy the Chicago Bears hoped he would be, the 49ers need help or else they are in trouble and the trade rumors already are starting to fly.
Naturally, Cleveland Browns star wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. already is seeing his name hit the rumor will, with Mike Francesa tweeting Tuesday that he’s hearing the Browns are shopping the talented receiver.
Now, Francesa doesn’t have a great track record, so let’s call these “rumors” flimsy at best.
All the same, the 49ers have been losing wide receivers left and right. They started their Week 1 loss to the Arizona Cardinals with just four healthy receivers and finished with just three after Richie James Jr. left with a hamstring injury.
Deebo Samuel is on injured reserve for at least the first three weeks after suffering a setback in his rehab from a Jones fracture. Rookie wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk missed Week 1 with a hamstring issue but is expected to suit up in Week 2 against the New York Jets. The 49ers’ pass-catching issues could be compounded even further if tight end Geoge Kittle is forced to miss time with a knee injury he suffered just before halftime against the Cardinals.
If Aiyuk is able to go in Week 2, he will join Kendrick Bourne, Trent Taylor and Dante Pettis in the pattern. That’s not a group that will keep a lot of defensive coordinators up at night.
So, if the Browns do indeed with to trade Beckham, or the LSU product wishes to try his hand with a quarterback who isn’t Baker Mayfield, should the 49ers pick up the phone?
At first glance, the thought of putting a supremely talented player like Beckham in coach Kyle Shanahan’s offense alongside Kittle, Samuel and Aiyuk would have 49ers fans salivating. Beckham’s talent has never been the issue, but at some point the excuses have to stop and the production has to come.
He put up good numbers for a bad Giants team early in his career. He made a number of highlight-reel catches that seemed destined to be played during his induction ceremony in Canton.
That was a long time ago, though.
Beckham hasn’t had a truly elite season since 2016, when he caught 101 passes for 1,367 yards and 10 touchdowns. In the three seasons since (one of which Beckham played in just four games due to injury), he has failed to crack the 80-catch, 1,100-yard or 10-touchdown benchmarks.
Beckham has all the tendencies of a toxic, narcissistic diva receiver but with only two-thirds the production. The numbers simply don’t justify the headache at the moment.
Think of what the Raiders did two offseasons ago. Antonio Brown was both certifiably insane and the best receiver in football. So, the Raiders took a chance that he would just be one of those things for them. Only issue was it was the former, not the latter, and their season went up in smoke before it began.
Of course, the 49ers’ infrastructure is much more stable than the Raiders’, and locker room leaders like Kittle and Richard Sherman would be expected to keep everything on schedule if Beckham were to book a ticket from Cleveland to the Bay.
But it’s the guy taking the snaps that needs to demand and have the respect of a guy like Beckham. Garoppolo is an average NFL quarterback. That’s not hate, it’s just the facts. He lands somewhere in the 14-20 range right alongside the guy who currently throws Beckham the ball, in Mayfield.
Beckham had issues with Eli Manning, who despite his flaws toward the end, was a two-time Super Bowl champion and might go to the Hall of Fame. He hasn’t clicked with Mayfield, who looked to be a star on the rise during his rookie season in 2018. There’s nothing about Garoppolo’s resume or level of play that says Beckham would automatically fall in line behind his new signal-caller.
Beckham still is young and the talent is undeniable. You can expect the best and live in fantasy land, but a certain point, when someone shows you who they are you have to believe them.
Yes, the 49ers have depth issues at wide receiver. No, they probably can’t win a Super Bowl with Bourne, Taylor and Pettis being their top receivers as they were Sunday in the loss to the Arizona Cardinals.
But the 49ers expect Samuel to return at some point. Aiyuk had an impressive training camp and the 49ers are confident if that if Samuel, Aiyuk and Bourne are their top three receivers, then the offense will be in great shape.
The 49ers are on the verge of greatness, and sometimes you need to bring that last piece, despite the obvious downside, to get the team over the hump.
The issue is that Beckham just hasn’t shown himself to be that guy recently. You can throw some blame on Mayfield but we’ve seen great receivers produce with no-name quarterbacks for years. If Beckham doesn’t get what he wants, he checks out and tries to take the whole team with him.
The asking price for Beckham would be much lower than the hefty ransom the Giants wanted for him two offseasons ago. But right now, it’s a gamble the 49ers don’t need to take.
There’s no need to panic or poison the well. In two weeks, the 49ers will be 2-1 and expecting the return of Samuel. Let Beckham stay where he is: Miserable in Cleveland.