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On My Hill: Baker Mayfield is better off without Beckham

The #FreeOdell movement has finally concluded as Odell Beckham Jr. cleared waivers and became an unrestricted free agent, though Baker Mayfield may be the one that’s actually freed. 

For whatever reason, Baker is a better quarterback without OBJ. There isn’t really much of an argument anymore, and thankfully the 41-16 destruction of the Bengals last Sunday just put all the drama to bed.

I can’t remember a time where a star receiver and (well) above average quarterback had so much disconnect between them. Until this last week, it didn’t seem like they had any off the field chemistry issues. 

Neither player is at fault here, and it’s unfortunate it didn’t work. That being said, Beckham’s departure from Cleveland is long overdue. He should’ve been gone after the end of last season, when it’s rumored he asked for a trade anyway.

Since the acquisition of Odell took place via trade in 2019, Mayfield has been a different player with him there. This can probably be attributed to Mayfield’s preferred playstyle of throwing to certain spots. Beckham, as a formerly elite and still heavily talented wideout, possesses enough skill to freelance his routes and create other opportunities to get open that aren’t scripted. Throwing to certain spots of a route tree and having your receiver go an entirely other direction doesn’t typically lead to good outcomes.

Regardless, it’s become a fact that Baker just plays better without Odell on the field, and the stats back it up. 

Immediately after OBJ tore his ACL in Week 7 of 2020, Mayfield proceeded to go 22/23 with five touchdowns, including a game-winner to Donovan Peoples-Jones with 11 seconds remaining. Although it was just one game, Mayfield finished the rest of the season as an elite passer. He tossed 15 touchdowns and threw just two picks over the last eleven games of the season, including the playoffs. 

Another aspect is that Odell is just such a dominant and electric receiver that he needs the ball in his hands to make things happen. The defense gravitates towards him, and he opens lanes for the rest of Cleveland’s receiving corps to create space and take advantage of their matchups.

However, I think it bothered Odell all along that he wasn’t getting to max out his stats. It’s likely he could’ve been in Baker’s ear about it, which got to his head and eventually just led to both him and HC Kevin Stefanski not game-planning for Odell at all. 

The Browns are better without a clear WR1 and depth, and spreading the ball around the offense has been a major key to their success. Even with the best running back tandem in football, you can only get so far without being able to pass in today’s NFL. 

Cleveland has an upfield battle ahead of it on its path to return to the playoffs. The good news is they have their franchise guy back and undistracted. 

Christo Siegel is a sophomore studying journalism at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnist do not reflect those of The Post. Do you agree? Tell Christo by tweeting him at @imchristosiegel. 

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