If Odell Beckham Jr. truly has his sights on becoming the highest-paid player in the NFL, he should probably start working on his quarterback skills.

In all seriousness, there’s nothing wrong with Beckham pushing for all he can get in his first big payday. Too often, players refuse to do what’s best for the collective good and fail to push for their real value. Consequently, the market’s ceiling doesn’t move enough, and the league’s middle-class players bear the brunt.

Le’Veon Bell, and, to some extent, Kirk Cousins, have begun to buck this trend. Bell is pushing to reinvigorate the stagnant running back market and get paid in a way that better represents his production, as he essentially acts as the Pittsburgh Steelers‘ lead back and No. 2 option in the passing game.

Meanwhile, Cousins, thanks to the Redskins‘ ineptitude and two seasons of solid production, has arguably more contract leverage than any player in NFL history. He’s balked at Washington’s offers, knowing what his true value would be if he hits the open market – even if his standing as a passer is still questionable.

And Beckham, too, should be well placed to squeeze the Giants for all they’re worth when they sit down at the negotiating table as soon as next offseason. The resume he’s built over his first three seasons is staggering, he’s already one of the NFL’s most marketable faces, and New York hasn’t been shy in expressing its desire to keep him.


(Photo courtesy: Action Images)

But – and this is a big but – Beckham has to be realistic in his demands, or things between him and the Giants could get messy very quickly.

In the list of highest-paid players in terms of annual salary – which is topped by Derek Carr‘s $25 million – Von Miller is the first non-quarterback at 16th, according to Spotrac. And you need to keep scrolling down to find the first wide receiver, Antonio Brown, tied for 23rd with a $17-million average.

Beckham should easily be able to leapfrog Brown, and maybe, just maybe, he could be the first non-quarterback to break the $20-million-a-year barrier. However, even in today’s pass-heavy NFL, the Giants will balk at the prospect of paying a wide receiver more money than any quarterback in the league.

And they’ll do so because, in the end, teams will always hold the most power in contract negotiations. Players and the NFLPA need to push for a bigger piece of the pie, but it’s a tightrope that must be walked with extreme care – and Beckham is looking to sprint along it.

The Giants not only hold his rights for the 2018 season, thanks to his $8.459-million fifth-year option, they can also keep him for the foreseeable future without a long-term deal, thanks to the franchise tag. The tag number for receivers is expected to be around $17.5 million for 2019, according to Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio. After that, the Giants could tag Beckham again in 2020 for a 20 percent raise over the previous year, and either the 44 percent raise or the quarterback tag for 2021.

The exact numbers can’t be known at this point, but it’d almost certainly be cheaper than paying Beckham $25 million-plus from 2018 onward.

So, unless Beckham is planning on a near-unprecedented standoff with the Giants – which, fair or not, would likely paint him as the greedy villain of the saga due to NFL fans’ propensity to side with billionaire owners over millionaire athletes – he needs to concentrate on pushing the ceiling rather than shattering it entirely.

One day, hopefully soon, an NFL player will break the cycle of contracts that vastly favor teams. But, sorry, Odell, that player will be one that throws passes, not catches them.

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