EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- With great wealth comes great responsibility.
That is the new reality for Odell Beckham Jr. He is set to become the highest-paid offensive non-quarterback in NFL history with the five-year, $95 million extension he’s receiving from the New York Giants.
It hasn’t come easily. Beckham is one of the last wide receivers from his 2014 draft class to be rewarded with a new deal. Some of the wait was self-inflicted; some of it was simply the Giants' way of doing business and wanting to make sure that the ankle he broke last year wasn’t going to be a problem.
Beckham made it easy for the Giants of late. He did just about everything they asked of him since the start of the spring, even risking getting on the field this summer in live drills and joint practices with many millions at stake. It didn’t have to go so smoothly, but it did, leading us to this point.
After months -- even years -- of waiting (and at one point, the Giants listening to trade offers), Beckham was finally rewarded. And now, it’s time for him to hold up his end of the bargain as the second-highest-paid player on the team and the ninth-highest-paid player in the league in terms of guaranteed money.
With the new deal comes the inevitable reality that this is Beckham’s team, if not today then soon enough. Quarterback Eli Manning will not be around forever, and Beckham is now signed through 2023. Manning will be 42 by that time, likely out of the league for several years.
Beckham, who unofficially became the face of the franchise once he agreed to the new deal, may still be in his prime. He will be the player who needs to hold others accountable -- in the locker room, on the field and off -- and set the right example.
Beckham, 25, needs to be an extension of coach Pat Shurmur. It should help that they’ve forged a strong relationship. They began texting not long after Shurmur was hired. The new coach even went out to Los Angeles this offseason to get face time with his top playmaker.
It set the stage for them to successfully navigate through a delicate summer that always had the contract situation hanging over them.
“Coach Shurmur is great. When we first met in L.A., we just sat down and talked football, and just to see his mentality and how he’s going to run the ship -- it’s just been phenomenal to come in here every day,” Beckham said recently. “It’s like you're back at the workplace and you love it, and he makes it fun for us. He’s just doing a great job. He’s got everybody doing what we’re supposed to be doing.”
Part of Beckham’s newfound compensation package will be to serve as an extension of his coach. Maybe even serve as a captain. It comes with the burden of cashing those monstrous paychecks.
That means all the other stuff needs to be a thing of the past. The potential “distractions,” as former head coach Ben McAdoo once called them. The kicking net proposals, the Josh Norman on-field scuffle, the pretending to pee on the field as a celebration, the boat trip. They can’t happen.
The Giants made an investment, a massive one, in Beckham as a player and as a person. They’re betting that he has matured over the years and is ready to become a true leader of the team. A player with that cachet can’t defer on that responsibility.
It took time for them to get to that point. They needed to see Beckham buy into the new regime -- and prove that his ankle was healthy -- before beginning negotiations on a new deal late last month. They apparently liked what they saw.
“I think Odell personally is moving in the right direction,” co-owner John Mara said at the start of training camp. “I think he has come in here with a good attitude, showed up [at the start of camp] with a smile on his face and worked hard, and I think he’s ready to go.
“I think he’s ready to have a great season and we’re ready for him to have a great season.”
They’re banking on him doing more than just that. Forget this season -- it’s bigger than that. They’re now heavily invested in him having a great career with the Giants.
Beckham already has immense respect in that locker room. If you talk to current and former Giants, they’ll rave about him as a person and a teammate. It’s hard to find a negative word on his approach and work ethic.
Beckham has developed into a leader in recent years. His influence has been evident ever since his breakout rookie year after being a first-round pick in the 2014 NFL draft. When Odell moves, everybody follows. When he wilts or gets injured, the team implodes.
It’s on Beckham now to make sure none of that happens to his team.