OBJ trade takeaways: Browns, Giants heading in opposite directions

The reported Odell Beckham Jr. trade that walloped the NFL world Tuesday night crystallized two things: The Cleveland Browns are ready to contend, and the New York Giants are headed for a dramatic rebuild.

This reported trade is the loudest and latest in a series of moves confirming as much.

These aren’t the old Browns

With optimism emanating out of Cleveland at an all-time level, Browns general manager John Dorsey is striking while the iron is hot. Since their embarrassing 0-16 season in 2017, Dorsey has been working around the clock to snap the franchise out of its doldrums.

He’s hit on nearly every move since, highlighted by the selection of quarterback Baker Mayfield with the first pick of the 2018 draft. Despite in-fighting on the coaching staff that resulted in a midseason firing, Mayfield led the Browns to wins in five of their last seven games and threatened to break the franchise’s ignominious 15-year playoff drought.

That has only further emboldened Dorsey to add to his stable of young talent.

The Browns reportedly reached a deal for expensive pass-rusher Olivier Vernon on Friday, then apparently splashed $39 million on defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson on Tuesday.

By adding Beckham to a roster that includes Mayfield, 23-year-old back Nick Chubb, 22-year-old tight end David Njoku, a solid offensive line, and young receivers Antonio Callaway, Rashard Higgins, and Jarvis Landry, the Browns brain trust has seemingly constructed an offense that should be competitive for years to come.

Cleveland has positioned itself as a potential power in an AFC, with the division-rival Pittsburgh Steelers losing their two stars and the Baltimore Ravens’ top-ranked defense being picked apart through free agency.

Trading places

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While the Browns are ascending, the Giants appear to be sinking.

After another disappointing season, one in which Big Blue finished 5-11, the Giants will pick in the top 10 of the draft for the second consecutive year.

The once-proud franchise, now faced with glaring holes across the roster, is in the midst of a stark teardown with no discernible vision. Vernon was jettisoned, star safety Landon Collins was allowed to hit free agency, and now the Beckham trade, coming a mere seven months after he was given a lucrative five-year extension, ships out a bona fide megastar in the midst of his prime. Whispers about a trade emerged early in the offseason, but even general manager Dave Gettleman dismissed them.

New York gains a first-round pick, a third-rounder, and young safety Jabrill Peppers – a former 2017 first-round selection – in return. But what are the odds that the sum of those assets, let alone a single one of them, returns a player the caliber of Beckham?

With Beckham no longer the cornerstone of the franchise, that designation falls to Saquon Barkley, last year’s second overall pick. The 2018 Offensive Rookie of the Year is general manager Dave Gettleman’s only major building block, and we know how running back’s are valued in today’s game.

The draft capital could help land the club a franchise quarterback, but that was anticipated to be the play last year, too. Eli Manning, the final relic of the old guard, appears poised to play out the final year of his contract at the age of 38. He’ll take the field for his 16th season with a roster that has been ransacked.

While the future is bright in Cleveland, it’s now even more murky in New York.