CLEVELAND — The Cleveland Browns made the splash move of the offseason when on the first day of the new league year back in March, they traded for Pro Bowl wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., but he was far from their only notable addition.
The Browns bolstered the tight end, safety and defensive line position groups through free agency and a second trade with the New York Giants, and then, built up the defensive backfield and linebacker corps with five of their seven selections in the 2019 NFL Draft, and that is something “absolutely” noticeable to quarterback Baker Mayfield.
“I think the most exciting thing is that it is competitive,” Mayfield said after a recent OTA practice in Berea. “Going up against the defense now and during the voluntary minicamp, we have a lot of talent. Trying to find out who we are, but it is fun to go compete against those guys every day.
“It is kind of like what we said back when the trade happened. It is kind of pick your poison now. We have some pretty good talent all around – tight ends, running backs, receivers and then, going in with the same offensive line. We have a good team. Now, it is, ‘What are we going to do with it?’”
Beckham Jr. has taken part in some of the practices and meetings, and was on the field for the first OTA practice last Tuesday to catch passes from Mayfield.
“It was really great to have him out here and around the guys, which I think is the most important part because we have a lot of time to get the timing down,” Mayfield said. “Right now, it is about getting to know each other, get the base of our offense down and accomplish those things.”
Although Beckham Jr. has not been at every practice, as was the case last Wednesday, Mayfield understands the importance of letting his teammate be the same kind of player he was with the Giants.
Over 59 regular-season games, including 56 starts, in those five years with the Giants, Beckham Jr. turned 622 targets into 390 receptions for 5,476 yards and 44 touchdowns. Beckham Jr. averaged 92.8 yards per game, including a league-best 108.8 during the 2014 season.
In 2018, Beckham Jr. turned in a 77-catch, 1,052-yard, six-touchdown effort for the Giants.
“You let a guy like that be him,” Mayfield said. “Everybody has their routine. Stick to what is working, and for him, obviously, it has been working for a while. He is going to do what he’s going to do. You have to trust that he is going to be there when it matters, and we know who he is.”
Regardless of how much or little practice time Mayfield gets with Beckham Jr. throughout the offseason program, he knows a six-week training camp and four preseason games will provide plenty of time to get in sync with his receivers and running backs.
“We don’t know what the end product is looking like,” Mayfield said. “That is why we are doing stuff right now, to try and find our identity and try to find out what we are going to be like, who we are going to be as a team.
“That is the great part about it. We don’t have to know right now. We don’t have to know who exactly is going to be playing, who is going to be making the certain plays, what routes they are going to be best at. That is what we are trying to find out right now.”