After a much-publicized courtship over the last week or so, the Dallas Cowboys and free agent WR Odell Beckham Jr. have yet to join forces. With reports that OBJ may not be ready to play until the postseason, new questions have come up about his actual usefulness to the Cowboys and if they should still have interest.
Before these latest reports on Beckham’s health, it was generally assumed that he’d be able to sign with Dallas and get in some games before the playoffs. But after Odell’s visit early this week for medical evaluation and other talks, now it appears his rehabilitation is still ongoing and won’t allow him back on the field unti mid-January.
Obviously, this changes the overall value of adding OBJ to this Cowboys offense. It was one thing when he was going to have time to work on his chemistry with QB Dak Prescott and the rest of the team in the regular season. But does Dallas really want Beckham making his debut in what will likely be a road game in the first round of the playoffs?
This isn’t an easy question to answer. It really comes down to your personal belief in the importance of chemistry between teammates as opposed to the effectiveness of superior talent. Because where OBJ may not have much in the first category, there’s no denying that he’d be one of the three most talented receivers in Dallas whenever he arrives.
Is there an internal answer?
It’d be great if someone among this group of Noah Brown, Simi Fehoko, Jalen Tolbert, James Washington, or even KaVontae Turpin had clearly established himself as WR3 in this passing game. It likely would’ve been Washington if he hadn’t gotten injured in the preseason. There was hope in Tolbert after glowing reports from training camp, but the 3rd-round rookie did not take that hype into the regular season and remains a non-factor.
The veteran Brown is getting the snaps at the third receiver, appearing on over 75% of the offensive plays even after Michael Gallup’s return. But despite so much time on the field, Noah’s only getting a few targets a game. He’s not a real threat to opposing defenses and Prescott isn’t looking his way often. Brown is still getting a lot of his snaps thanks to his superior blocking skills, which are part of Dallas’ potent rushing attack this year.
Clearly, Odell Beckham Jr. would walk in as an upgrade in terms of sheer talent. He would give Dallas the legitimate third threat at WR that disappeared when they discarded Amari Cooper. But with OBJ working his way back from last year’s ACL injury and being 30 years old now, can we reasonably expect him to hit the ground running?
The version of OBJ matters
That’s the dilemma now for the Cowboys. While OBJ brings talent and a marquee name to the group, would his orientation period limit his ability to help the team early? That’s not a big issue in the offseason or even if you could work him in over these final regular-season weeks. But if he truly can’t start playing into the first playoff game, is that really when you want to take a gamble?
It’s all a question of risk assessment. How dangerous would it be to try to integrate Beckham into the offense during the postseason? On the other hand, how dangerous would it be to take on the other elite teams of the NFC without more offensive firepower?
One could argue that Dallas’ existing offensive versatility with RB Tony Pollard as a receiving threat, plus the occasional surprises that guys like Noah Brown or the backup tight ends can provide, is enough for the playoffs. With the offense humming and among the league’s best since Prescott’s return from injury, why potentially disrupt it?
These are tough questions, and the Cowboys in recent years have tended to lean towards conservatism over taking a big swing. Unless their current foot dragging is a smoke screen to create leverage in contract talks, they may very well be backing off from Beckham now that they know when he’ll actually be ready to play.