Tom Brady and Odell Beckham Jr. have repeatedly expressed an interest in teaming up. Is it just a shared pipe dream, or could it actually happen?
Ask most NFL fans outside the New England area what their greatest football nightmares consist of, and chances are most of them might have something to do with the Patriots.
Whether it’s their own team losing to New England in a meaningful game, the Patriots winning another Super Bowl (and maybe even just playing in another Super Bowl), or some combination of Tom Brady and Bill Belichick sticking around for another decade to terrorize the league, the Pats truly are the stuff of nightmares for the other 31 teams in the NFL and their fanbases.
Here’s another frightening thought to keep enemy fans up at night: what if one of the greatest wide receivers in the league came to Foxborough to team up with the greatest head coach and the greatest quarterback of all time?
It almost happened this very year, actually, when the Patriots scooped up Antonio Brown. For one memorable game against the woeful Miami Dolphins, Brady-to-Brown was a very real and a very terrifying thing, and there was nothing anybody else could do to stop it.
Turns out the one person who could put a stop to their on-field magic-making was Brown himself, who promptly self-sabotaged his way out of the Patriots’ good graces and onto the unemployment line.
Whatever happens with Brown’s myriad legal and character issues, he’s probably never going to be a Patriot again. And from a purely football perspective, that’s a depressing thought, and will naturally always lead to questions of “what might have been.”
Brown isn’t the only game-changing wide receiver in the NFL, however… far from it. Depending on personal taste and preference, you probably have to include Odell Beckham Jr., DeAndre Hopkins, and Julio Jones in that upper echelon of wideouts, too. Michael Thomas, Mike Evans, and Keenan Allen at least warrant being mentioned in the conversation as well.
Most of those players have been locked up by their respective franchises. Barring something seismic occurring next offseason or before next year’s trade deadline, none of them are likely to find themselves on the move anytime soon. Hopkins’ Texans and Thomas’ Saints are perennial playoff contenders these days, Jones just signed a three-year deal that makes him the highest-paid receiver in the league, and both Evans and Allen can present compelling arguments that they’re the best players on their team.
What about Beckham though?
OBJ is the leading receiver for his Cleveland Browns, but just barely. His best friend and former college roommate, Jarvis Landry, has the same number of targets through eight games, has caught only three fewer passes, and has just 20 fewer receiving yards. The former LSU Tigers each have but one touchdown apiece this year, and Landry is actually averaging more yards per reception than Beckham.
Now in his sixth NFL season (his first with the Browns), OBJ is on pace for one of the worst years of his career. In the four years that Beckham played at least 12 games with the New York Giants, he eclipsed 1,000 receiving yards and six touchdowns every single time. In three of those seasons (his first three), he had over 1,300 yards and double-digit touchdowns every year.
So what happened?
This is a player very much in the prime of his NFL playing career at just 26 years of age (his birthday was Tuesday), and yet he’s having a surprisingly down year. The expectation was that Beckham’s production would reach new stratospheric levels now that he’s finally free of Eli Manning and the moribund Giants offense, but if anything, he’s worse off now with the Browns than he was with the G-Men.
Most of the blame deservedly falls at the feet of Cleveland quarterback Baker Mayfield, who has significantly regressed in his second year as an NFL passer. First-time head coach Freddie Kitchens has also been a major disappointment. Largely because of this pair, the Browns are just 2-6 and sit in third place in the AFC North, when most analysts and optimistic fans had them pegged this summer as challengers to the Patriots in the AFC.
All of this run-up leads back to that initial question of what would happen if Odell Beckham Jr. – inarguably one of the greatest receivers in today’s NFL – were to suddenly find himself paired with Tom Brady and Bill Belichick, the GOATs at their respective positions, on the New England Patriots?
It’s not nearly as crazy as it sounds.
According to Ty Anderson of 985TheSpotsHub.com, it has long been a dream of OBJ’s to play with Brady under Belichick:
“Two, three years ago, there was speculation that was going on,” Beckham Jr. reminisced. “I was willing and ready to go over there [to New England] at any point in time. That was always a dream of mine to play for Tom Brady.”
Inside Hook’s Ethan Hack cited a report back then that seemed to confirm all the “speculation that was going on” regarding a trade of Beckham from the Giants to the Patriots years ago. According to Hack and the report, the team that was the “most aggressive” in pursuing a deal for Beckham was unequivocally New England.
When the Patriots and the Browns played each other two weeks ago at Gillette Stadium, Beckham sought out Brady after the game on the field to gift him with some custom-made goat-hair cleats. Later, Brady camped out in front of the visitors’ locker room to wait for Beckham to come out, simply so the two friends could catch up more and Brady could introduce OBJ to his son, according to WEEI’s Ryan Hannable.
Clearly, there’s a mutual level of respect here between two players who are very, very good at doing what they do.
On Wednesday, Bleacher Report’s Mike Freeman opened his weekly column by exploring the feasibility of Beckham ending up with a team other than the Browns in the not-too-distant future. While he cited sources that were skeptical about Cleveland dealing the receiver so soon after acquiring him in last year’s blockbuster deal, he also acknowledged a growing sentiment around the NFL that if the Browns “keep sucking,” anything is possible.
Freeman specifically listed the New England Patriots, Baltimore Ravens, San Francisco 49ers, and Green Bay Packers as the four franchises that could lead a long list of candidates for OBJ’s services should the superstar wideout ever become available.
And while that’s certainly still a very big “if,” it’s telling that he listed the Patriots first and foremost on his list.
It might still be a long shot for Brady and Beckham to team up before TB12 retires. But at the rate that Brady’s continuing to defy Father Time – not to mention the rate that the Browns continue to defy franchise respectability – it’s perhaps not nearly as unlikely as we all originally imagined.
And that’s a thought that should cultivate nightmares around the league.