Sources: OBJ may return punts in Rams debut

  • ESPN NFL Insider
  • Joined ESPN in 2009
  • Former president of the Pro Football Writers of America and the author of four books

The Los Angeles Rams have discussed using Odell Beckham Jr. as an occasional punt returner Monday night as part of a package of plays designed for the star wide receiver, sources tell ESPN.

Beckham, who joined Los Angeles on an incentive-laden deal this past Thursday, is expected to make his Rams debut Monday night against the division rival 49ers, sources told ESPN.

Beckham was used as a punt returner early in his career with the Giants, but he has returned only one punt return since 2019 in his two-plus seasons with the Browns.

Star receiver Cooper Kupp sometimes bas been the Rams’ “safe” punt returner, fielding punts deep in their own territory. Beckham could be used there, as well as in other spots, and Monday night will be the first glimpse of whether the Rams decide to deploy the idea.

The possibility of returning punts was one of the ideas the Rams have pondered since signing Beckham to a one-year, $4.5 million deal that is heavy on team-driven postseason incentives.

The Rams joined the free-agent bidding for Beckham this past Tuesday, once he cleared waivers after being released by the Browns. Sources tell ESPN that the Rams felt they had a strong chance to land Beckham after head coach Sean McVay had a long and direct conversation with the receiver about how he would be used in Los Angeles.

Beckham made it clear that he had three things he was looking for: a good coach, a good quarterback and a team that would win this season.

The Packers, Chiefs, Saints and Seahawks showed varying levels of interest, but the Rams fit all the criteria and also could offer Beckham something no other franchise could — Los Angeles as a location.

From there, the conversation between McVay and Beckham was the first of several discussions that the three-time Pro Bowler would have with members of the Rams organization over the next two days. He also spoke with his friends Von Miller and Jalen Ramsey, with each player pitching the merits of playing in Los Angeles to Beckham.

Beckham and the Rams ultimately agreed to a deal that includes the following details:

• A $750,000 base salary for the remainder of this season.

• A $500,000 signing bonus.

• A $500,000 incentive if the Rams win a wild-card game or have a bye, with Beckham being on the team’s active list and playing at least one play.

• A $750,000 incentive if the Rams win a divisional playoff game and Beckham is active and plays at least one play in the game.

• A $750,000 incentive if the Rams win the NFC Championship Game and Beckham is active and plays at least one play in the game.

• A $500,000 incentive for being on the Super Bowl roster and another $500,000 if the Rams win the Super Bowl.

One of the only holdups, according to sources, came when the sides discussed what jersey number Beckham would wear. Beckham discussed wearing Nos. 1, 3 and 13, but there were issues with each.

No. 1 was the jersey worn by former Rams receiver DeSean Jackson, who was waived earlier this month. No. 3 also was attractive to Beckham, but the number belongs to injured Rams running back Cam Akers for next season, and Beckham and the Rams would like their relationship to go beyond this year.

The No. 13 currently is worn by Rams backup quarterback John Wolford, so the Rams settled on Beckham wearing No. 3 for the remainder of this season, with the idea that he could switch to No. 13 in 2022 if he re-signs with Los Angeles.

The Rams plan to attempt to re-sign both Beckham and Miller, who is in the final year of his contract, in the offseason, sources told ESPN.

Although they added Beckham and Miller to make a Super Bowl run this season, the Rams see their relationships with both players potentially lasting beyond 2021, according to sources. Los Angeles also would receive compensatory draft picks if either player leaves in free agency.

Source: Read Full Article