THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. (AP)When the Los Angeles Rams learned they had a chance to land Odell Beckham Jr., their veterans assembled in the locker room Thursday morning. Jalen Ramsey made a call, and the Rams took turns recruiting the veteran receiver to their West Coast home.
”Felt like college, huh?” receiver Robert Woods said with a grin.
The Rams clearly sold themselves and their Super Bowl vision quite well to the mercurial receiver.
Beckham agreed to a one-year deal with Los Angeles, choosing this burgeoning super team over several potential free-agent destinations.
The Browns released the disgruntled Beckham on Monday, midway through his third season in Cleveland. He cleared waivers Tuesday with no team willing to pick up the $7.25 million he was owed under his last contract, freeing the five-time 1,000-yard wideout to sign with any team.
After considering his options and getting the full-court press from his future teammates, Beckham elected to join NFL yards passing leader Matthew Stafford and coach Sean McVay in the league’s most productive passing offense.
”I have a lot of respect for who he is as a player,” said Stafford, who played with Beckham in a Pro Bowl. ”It’s an opportunity for us as a team. It’s an opportunity for him to come in here and prove himself to us. What our room is about, the receiver room, is pretty special. I know he’ll fit right in and just continue to get better, and hopefully it will help us as a team.”
The Rams swooped in fairly late in the courtship. They closed the deal with the swashbuckling flair that’s defined their front office under general manager Les Snead, who has rarely faced a salary cap challenge he couldn’t overcome.
The three-time Pro Bowl selection will play alongside NFL receiving leader Cooper Kupp – who has 74 catches for 1,019 yards and 10 TDs, all tops in the league – and starters Robert Woods (556 yards) and second-year pro Van Jefferson (443 yards). One of those three receivers is likely to see less playing time after Beckham joins the Rams, who have run offensive sets featuring three receivers almost exclusively this season.
That’s not a concern, according to the receivers who will be affected. With Stafford and McVay calling the shots, they believe everybody can thrive and win.
”We’re all working for the same goal,” Woods said. ”His thing is, I feel like, why he left – he wanted to be a part of it and contribute, and I think just coming into this offense, he wants to work and contribute. We’re all working toward the same goal: winning, grinding. I don’t think it should be anything disruptive.”
The Rams (7-2) visit the San Francisco 49ers on Monday night before their bye week.
Beckham is the second veteran NFL star in the past two weeks to join the Rams, who seem to be trying everything to emerge from a crowded NFC so they can play in February’s Super Bowl at their own SoFi Stadium in Inglewood.
Los Angeles traded for Von Miller last week, sending two high draft picks to Denver for the vaunted pass-rushing linebacker. Miller has yet to debut for LA, but he was among those recruiting Beckham by phone.
The Rams also don’t hesitate to add talent even to areas in which they’re strong: Miller joined a defense that already leads the NFL in sacks, while Beckham is joining an offense that DeSean Jackson left two weeks ago because he couldn’t get playing time in front of LA’s three starters.
Kupp and Woods emerged from their discussions confident Beckham wants to buy in.
”I think the thing about playing here is when you’re not about what we’re about, when you’re not about playing for the guys next to you, I think you can stick out like a sore thumb,” Kupp said. ”We have a great culture here. Guys play for each other. They work day in and day out so that when we step on the field, you are taking care of the guy next to you.”
The Rams ardently chased Beckham before he was traded to Cleveland by the Giants in March 2019, and McVay has spoken glowingly of Beckham’s talents over the years. Beckham’s speed, athleticism and ball skills should provide a welcome option for the Rams, who are already back among the NFL’s top offensive teams after a two-year lull.
Lakers star LeBron James welcomed Beckham on Twitter shortly before the deal was announced: ”Welcome to LA my brother (at)obj! It’s GO TIME!!”
They are close friends, and Beckham – who already has a home in Los Angeles – has been making regular offseason appearances courtside at Staples Center since even before LeBron arrived in 2018.
The 29-year-old Beckham has the chance to revitalize his career with the Rams after his tenure in Cleveland never got rolling and eventually came to a fairly ugly finish.
After missing the end of last season with a knee injury, he has only 17 catches for 232 yards and zero touchdowns in six games this year. His father recently shared a video master cut of Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield not getting the ball to Beckham, essentially forcing the breakup with Cleveland.
Browns safety John Johnson, who spent the past four seasons with the Rams, was on a Zoom call with Cleveland reporters when the news of Beckham’s signing broke. Johnson wondered how OBJ will fit in LA.
”They had a good thing going, like a complete offense,” Johnson said. ”I just feel like, from being in LA, I know for a fact the offense runs through Cooper Kupp. Even in the run game, the pass game, the screen game, it kind of runs through Cooper Kupp. So obviously, Odell’s a big name and he’s going to want that attention as well. It will be interesting.
”Coach McVay, he’s one of the best doing it. He’ll find a way to get it done, but right off the bat, I really wouldn’t want to go there if I were him, but we’ll see how it goes and I wish him the best.”
The Rams have been remarkably successful at managing the egos and needs of their elite players, with McVay assuaging almost all public disenchantment with the organization. Ramsey was considered a potential locker room problem after he forced his way out of Jacksonville, but he has been a model citizen and a clear team leader in Los Angeles.
Beckham will have ample motivation to fit into Los Angeles’ winning culture after appearing in just one playoff game in his entire NFL career. He spent his first five NFL seasons in New York, but the Giants reached the postseason only in 2016.
”I think people forget his first three, four years in the league … it was ridiculous, the pace he was on,” Kupp said. ”Hopefully he can come in here and just take that and be that same player. Come in here, be explosive, be efficient and make plays for us.”
AP Sports Writer Tom Withers in Cleveland contributed to this report.
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