Ravens wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. was a day away from potentially becoming the NFL’s most unlikely $50 million man.

He won’t be, of course. In a long-expected move, the Ravens released Beckham on Thursday, before the 4 p.m. deadline when his extravagant 2025 placeholder salary would become fully guaranteed. The Ravens and Beckham had restructured his one-year, $15 million contract in January, removing the four void years from his deal so that $11.1 million in dead money would not accelerate onto the team’s 2024 salary cap.

With Beckham’s contract reworked, the Ravens released the 31-year-old with a team-friendly post-June 1 designation. Beckham’s dead-money charge won’t go away, but the move will help the Ravens’ offseason budget, pushing just $2.8 million onto the 2024 cap and $8.0 million onto the 2025 cap, according to Russell Street Report.

It’s unclear what kind of market might await Beckham. The three best pending free agent wide receivers — Tee Higgins, Michael Pittman Jr. and Mike Evans — were all re-signed or franchise-tagged before the NFL’s “legal tampering” period opened Monday. One of the best receivers to ultimately reach the open market, former Ravens first-round pick Marquise “Hollywood” Brown, is still available. Just five of Pro Football Focus’ top 15 true free agents at the position overall have agreed to terms or re-signed, and only four got multiyear deals.

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Beckham, PFF’s No. 5 true free agent wide receiver, entered the offseason projected to earn a one-year, $7 million contract. He finished second on the Ravens in receiving yards last season (565), his first year back since tearing an ACL in the Los Angeles Rams’ Super Bowl LVI victory in February 2022.

With minor injuries limiting Beckham throughout the season, the Ravens rarely imposed heavy workloads on the three-time Pro Bowl pick. Over the second half of the year, Beckham never played more than 38 offensive snaps in a game. The team’s pitch count seemed to keep Beckham fresh; from Week 9 to Week 13, Beckham had 343 yards and three touchdowns in five games and averaged 3.7 yards per route run, according to PFF, one of the NFL’s best rates in that span.

Beckham was held to just four catches for 34 yards in the playoffs, but he graded out as the NFL’s No. 24 wide receiver overall in 2023, according to ESPN’s receiver tracking metrics, which evaluate players’ ability to get open, create yardage after the catch and make contested catches.

Beckham, whose signing last offseason was crucial to reigniting contract talks with quarterback Lamar Jackson, was also perhaps unlucky not to have a better debut year with the 2023 NFL Most Valuable Player. According to TruMedia, 25% of Beckham’s targets were considered off target, one of the NFL’s highest rates.

Jonas Shaffer is a Ravens beat writer for The Baltimore Banner. He previously covered the Ravens for The Baltimore Sun. Shaffer graduated from the University of Maryland and grew up in Silver Spring.

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