By Eric D. Williams
FOX Sports NFL Writer
While NFL observers may have been skeptical upon Odell Beckham Jr.’s arrival in Los Angeles last year, his midseason addition to the Rams was a match made in heaven.
The mercurial receiver returned to his playmaking ways, quickly establishing chemistry with quarterback Matthew Stafford. Beckham totaled 27 receptions for 305 receiving yards and five scores in eight games during the second half of the regular season.
He was even better in the postseason, finishing with 21 receptions for 288 receiving yards and two scores. That includes two critical receptions — including one for a score — in L.A.’s Super Bowl win over the Cincinnati Bengals. Beckham appeared on his way to winning MVP honors before suffering an ACL tear in his left knee in the second quarter. Per Next Gen Stats, he totaled five receptions for 91 yards and a touchdown on six go routes in the postseason.
“It’s been nothing but love,” Beckham said in the lead-up to his team’s Super Bowl win. “It’s been a great partnership every day. They’ve put me in positions to succeed. They’ve given me confidence to elevate my game again.”
Shannon Sharpe: Rams don’t win Super Bowl without OBJ
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But will there be an encore performance for Beckham in Los Angeles?
According to his social media account, Beckham had his surgery on Feb. 22. It was performed by Dr. Neal ElAttrache, the Rams’ head physician, and it was Beckham’s second ACL surgery on his left knee in two years. Still, Rams coach Sean McVay said he has made the LSU product’s return a priority for L.A.’s 2022 Super Bowl run.
“I really want Odell back on our team,” McVay told the “Rich Eisen Show.” “He’s a guy that in a short amount of time we were able to develop a really special relationship. I thought he brought a great spark to our team.
“We all know what charisma and presence he has, but he is truly a great teammate. He made so many impactful plays. It was a shame to see him go down in that game, but he for sure made an impact with those two catches he did have. Without a doubt, I want to get Odell back here. That’s the goal, and we continue to work on a solution for him to re-sign with the Rams.”
According to the Los Angeles Times, Beckham was extended a contract offer to return to the Rams this offseason. If he does return, the Rams will be loaded at the position.
After a historic season statistically in 2021, Cooper Kupp is in line for a contract extension and sits atop L.A.’s depth chart. The Rams signed Allen Robinson to a three-year, $46.5 million contract in free agency as the team’s No. 2 receiver. Van Jefferson enters his third season with Los Angeles as the team’s No. 3 receiver.
The receiver will turn 30 years old in November. He’s in a different spot in his life and says he’s more comfortable with who he is. And now he has a family: Beckham’s first child, son Zydn, was born in February, just days before Odell’s knee surgery. That changes how you make decisions.
And the Rams will most likely have competition for his services.
Other teams with Super Bowl aspirations such as the Buffalo Bills, Green Bay Packers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Kansas City Chiefs and the New England Patriots witnessed the impact Beckham had for the Rams down the backstretch of last season and in the playoffs. Why not take a chance on a veteran receiver who can make impact plays and push your team over the top?
Teams interested in acquiring Beckham will have to make sure he’s healthy enough to pass a physical before signing him to a new deal. Then he’ll need a detailed plan for his return to play, which would include time spent working on rehabbing his injured knee during the regular season.
Dr. David Chao is a former team physician for the Chargers and current NFL injury expert. On his website, Sports Injury Central, which provides expert analysis on player injuries, Chao said the road to recovery can be quicker for athletes after a second ACL knee surgery.
“The player knows what to expect,” Chao said. “And the area that you are working on is similar. In other words, if you had to dig up your yard to fix a pipe and it broke again, you’re digging up the same area. And that in some ways is a benefit than digging up a new area because of the dirt you just refilled. It’s not solid bedrock.
“If it’s apples to apples — isolated ACL to isolated ACL — I find the second one in some ways can be a little better. It’s not worse, like people would think, if done well.”
According to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network, Beckham’s first ACL knee surgery did not go well, which resulted in his rehabilitation taking longer than expected. Beckham suffered a re-tear of the ACL 16 months after the initial surgery. Chao said that when athletes get out beyond 12 months from an ACL knee surgery, the re-tear rate should be lower than with the player’s healthier knee.
Chao noted that Beckham took a year to return to play after suffering his first ACL knee injury in October 2020. So, if the same timeline is followed, there’s a possibility that Beckham may not play at all this season.
“He’s a smart guy,” Chao said. “He’s a veteran guy. Obviously, he’s got an incredible catch radius. Do I think he will be 100 percent this season? Probably not. Can he help a team late this season? He probably could if things go his way.”
However, with Beckham just three months out from surgery, it could be awhile before a team chooses to offer the talented receiver a contract. On the flip side, Beckham could wait until he’s back running and doing field drills before seeking out a team.
“I don’t think he’s going to sign for a while,” Chao said. “He’s unlikely to be ready at the start of the season. Look at the timeline and projections. His surgery was in February. Six months puts him into the middle of training camp, so if I were betting, I think he’s likely to float around until there’s a late-season need.”
That means Beckham could be ready just in time for the postseason.
Eric D. Williams has reported on the NFL for more than a decade, covering the Los Angeles Rams for Sports Illustrated, the Los Angeles Chargers for ESPN and the Seattle Seahawks for the Tacoma News Tribune. Follow him on Twitter at @eric_d_williams.
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