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Science Lab: To OBJ … or Not to OBJ?


Patrik [No C] Walker joined the Dallas Cowboys digital media group as a staff writer and media personality in July 2022, having professionally covered the NFL and, more specifically, the Cowboys since 2007.

He most recently did so for CBS Sports by way of 247Sports, where he also spent time delving into collegiate recruiting as well – ultimately becoming well-known for his level of unapologetic objectivity labeled by many as his own unique brand of football "science".

Welcome to "The Science Lab", a place where football facts and in-depth analysis always triumph over feelings.

FRISCO, Texas – What do you get when an existing Super Bowl contender exchanges vows with a dynamic free agent talent? That's the question/situation the Dallas Cowboys find themselves mulling as they consider signing Odell Beckham, Jr. during the back half of the 2022 season, but reality is never as cut-and-dry as fantasy.

Otherwise, no one would ever get divorced.

There's plenty that might go well, and there are inevitably things that might not, so let's talk about everything that would, could and should go into the Cowboys making this decision: the good, the bad and the "Wanda from 'In Living Color'".

Yes, while unpleasant to consider, the ugly must also be considered here and with the same passion as the good.

I'll start by saying/repeating there's no denying the skill set of Beckham, easily one of the best receivers in the game, even now as he sits at the ripe football age of 30. He demonstrated this in 2021 as a member of the Los Angeles Rams - instantly becoming their biggest offensive playmaker not named Cooper Kupp, going on to deliver 305 receiving yards and five touchdowns in only seven starts for head coach Sean McVay and quarterback Matthew Stafford.

He went on to add another two touchdowns in the postseason, one of them being in the Super Bowl against the Cincinnati Bengals.

But then he tore an ACL … for the second time in less than a year and a half … in the same knee (left) … and it was later reported that the second procedure was not only to repair the ACL but to also make corrections from the initial procedure he underwent when he initially tore the ligament as a member of the Cleveland Browns.


Roses are in order for the former first-round pick after being able to impact games as he did last season with a knee that was less than 100%, because wow, but those who were concerned about the ramp-up time of Michael Gallup following one torn ACL at the age of 25 would be lying to themselves if they said they somehow suddenly believe the 30-year-old returning from his second torn ACL in under two years will not need a moment to find his wheels.

He may not, as shown last year, but there's a good chance he will - leaving one to reasonably assume he won't be in prime form until late December which, to be fair, is when you'd need him most anyway.

In other words, make sure your football lust is tied to logical expectations to avoid spoiling the honeymoon.

"We want him. We want OBJ." - Ezekiel Elliott

That said, it's also true that this must all be a part of the conversation for Dallas as they try to figure out if he's truly 100% nowadays (after all, it's not like the Cowboys' medical staff performed the procedure, which would give them ultimate confidence in the repair job that took place in the second go-round).

And if he wants a multi-year deal, as is being reported by certain outlets, things become that much more complicated, because you'd be committing to a long-term deal on a player who has the aforementioned injury history along with the fact he's now crossed the event horizon of age (30 is often a marker teams use to determine when regression might begin).

Also, what would Beckham's asking price be? Considering the NFL trade deadline has now passed and, as such, teams who remain in need of a WR are now clamoring toward him with offers that inherently create a bidding war for his services??

It won't be cheap, that's for sure.

That isn't to say he will reset the market, because he won't come close to doing such a thing, but he's going to have to truly weigh all of his options before making a decision - e.g., grass vs. turf (ACL issues, after all), warm weather versus cold weather (ahem, ACL issues), state tax vs. the absence of one (goes to net revenue differential) and, of course, winning games.

Sitting at 6-2 on the season and having done so without yet hitting their offensive stride - Dak Prescott having been absent five games due to injury - Beckham would do well to view the Cowboys as being the solution to at least three variables in his equation: winning, warm weather (and when the temps do eventually dip, the roof will be closed at AT&T Stadium).

"Come and win games over here. Help us get to that Bowl." - Micah Parsons

By the way, franchise players lobbying publicly on the campaign trail to sign Beckham?

Advantage: Cowboys

The other teams who'll likely reach out to Beckham and draw his mutual interest could include the Buffalo Bills, Green Bay Packers, Kansas City Chiefs, New York Giants and the San Francisco 49ers.

I'll go ahead and toss in a dark horse as well - seeing as there always is one - and that's the Miami Dolphins, a team that can offer Beckham a role in an offense that features Jaylen Waddle and Tyreek Hill (making Beckham indefensible) on an electric pass-first offense that also happens to work only minutes from South Beach and, other than his previous home of Los Angeles or San Francisco, you'd be hard-pressed to find a better, and more glamorous, winter climate to play games in.

Advantage: Cowboys, 49ers, Dolphins

It's all so intriguing, really, particularly in how one would think the Chiefs were out of the picture after trading for Kardarius Toney in a move that should rightfully help the Giants' chances of reuniting with Beckham, but he noted on Twitter that signing with Kansas City is still "not out of the question" - as one example of just how many levels there are to this conversation.

But, in the end, money talks and Dallas currently owns more than any other team mentioned.

So, dearly beloved, here are the salary caps* for each, as of Nov. 9:

  • Cowboys: $8.35 million
  • Packers: $6.68 million
  • Dolphins: $6.41 million
  • 49ers: $5.17 million
  • Chiefs: $4.04 million
  • Giants: $3.89 million
  • Bills: $702,632

*all figures courtesy of Spotrac

Now, be not misled, the salary cap isn't immutable. It can easily be manipulated when a team has the want or need to do so - just ask the Saints or the Eagles - but having more of it upfront means fewer roster/contract triggers to pull to create more, which could end up costing a team depth for the sake of squeezing in a high-profile target; and this is exactly what the Bills would be tasked with achieving as they slide into Beckham's DMs with a measly $700K to play with.

There's no romance without finance.

Advantage: Everyone except the Bills

There's a difference between ability to pay and willingness to pay, though, and that's really where the crux of Dallas' argument might take a hit. It's a team that does not like to be cash-strapped and has routinely made it clear that you don't spend money simply because you have it to spend, so don't count on them trying to win a bidding war. If that were the case, hell, they'd still have Amari Cooper on the roster.

Additionally, while the Cowboys have a need at WR (as things start to come together for Prescott, CeeDee Lamb, Michael Gallup and his trio of tight ends), it's not nearly as dire as a team like the Packers, and maybe one day the former will finally unleash the plays they have in the playbook for Kavontae Turpin as they also near the debut of James Washington, with all of this playing into a possible [un]willingness to spend make the largest sacrifice or, hell, there's a particular player who still resides in Houston that the Cowboys would have right now via trade.

"We may or may not make a move but, if we don't, we like where we are." - Jerry Jones

Advantage: Everyone except the Cowboys

Every dollar isn't equal across the great 50 states, though, and that means Dallas could mathematically offer less on a deal that puts more money in Beckham's pocket due to lack of a state tax, similar to a pitch he'd hear from the team in South Florida - seeing as only two teams in this field of suitors can make such a claim.

Going from the highest state tax in the nation - California at 13.3% - to absolute zero is basically financial porn, especially to a multi-millionaire (the more you make, the more they take … in theory, at least).

Advantage: Cowboys, Dolphins

As far as wanting to go to a winner goes, well, the Cowboys could potentially eliminate the Packers from Beckham's consideration in this category with a win at Lambeau Field on Sunday, because Green Bay would have then suffered a sixth consecutive loss and be four games under .500 with only seven games remaining in the season; and on an offense that has no other real threat outside of him, requiring him to become the No. 1 guy and while that sounds great for his competitive fire, his knee might feel differently.

Here are the team records (respective division ranking included):

  • Cowboys: 6-2 (2nd)
  • Chiefs: 6-2 (1st)
  • Giants: 6-2 (3rd)
  • Bills: 6-2 (1st)
  • Dolphins: 6-3 (3rd)
  • 49ers: 4-4 (2nd)
  • Packers: 3-6 (2nd)

Advantage: Everyone except the Packers

There are several reasons the Cowboys are and should remain a favorite to successfully woo Beckham - e.g., culture, climate, cap space, etc. - but there are a few that would make it tough to do so, from an alleged want of a multi-year deal to his recent injury history to the likelihood he'd have to accept less to put on a Cowboys helmet and the fact Dallas' home stadium has turf and not grass.

Hey, it's called a "negotiation" for a reason.

The longer Dallas allows this to play out, however, the lower the odds will be of it materializing as other worthy suitors do their best impression of an episode from "The Bachelor". Unlike so many other big-name free agents, this one isn't a pipe dream, but it's not a wet one, either, instead existing somewhere in the middle - requiring both sides to make concessions if they're to jump the broom soon with the hopes of consummating the marriage with a trip to Super Bowl LVII.

Truth be told, it's the defense, special teams and rushing attack that will travel well and put the Cowboys in position to hoist a Lombardi this season, but if the offense can find a way to match serve with the other two units, they could finally be what they haven't been since the mid-1990s: a juggernaut.

If they can make it work with Beckham on all fronts, count me in, because a wedding to him that costs slightly (key word) more than originally planned and carries a bit of manageable risk is better than possibly not getting a ring at all in 2022.

Two and a half decades of being single is long enough.

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