Browns Guard Joel Bitonio Had a Surprising Message for Odell Beckham Jr. Before His Dramatic Release: ‘We’d Welcome Him With Open Arms’

The Cleveland BrownsOdell Beckham Jr. experience is over. The Browns officially released the disgruntled wide receiver on November 5, subjecting him to the waiver wire as he looks to find a new team to latch on to. Interested teams have until November 8 to put a claim in on him. Several teams will presumably express interest in the three-time Pro Bowler and former Rookie of the Year.

The writing was on the wall for a while when it came to Beckham Jr. prematurely departing Cleveland. He and quarterback Baker Mayfield were never able to get on the same page. However, that doesn’t make the situation any less confusing at the end of the day.

Odell Beckham Jr.’s tenure with the Browns was confusing

When the Browns first acquired Beckham Jr. from the New York Giants in 2019, expectations were sky-high. OBJ had established himself as a legitimate WR1-type talent in New York despite playing alongside an aging Eli Manning. Common sense suggested his productivity would improve upon joining forces with a younger QB in Mayfield.

While 2019 was a solid first season for OBJ in the Browns’ offense (74 catches for 1,035 yards), the following 13 games ended up being a complete disaster. Split between the 2020 and 2021 seasons, Beckham Jr. caught 40 passes for just 551 yards.

Once it became evident Mayfield and the Browns’ weren’t willing to adjust and adapt their ways to get Beckham Jr. the football, he began quietly planting the seeds to force his way out. He requested a trade right before this year’s trade deadline, followed by his father posting a video showcasing his son’s lack of targets.

The Browns were unable to orchestrate a trade before the deadline. However, they did honor OBJ’s request for a fresh start by releasing him. It was an unorthodox ordeal. However, what made things even stranger was the reaction some of OBJ’s teammates had before his release.

Joel Bitonio had a surprising message for Odell Beckham Jr.

Browns players Joel Bitonio and Odell Beckham Jr.
Joel Bitonio and Odell Beckham Jr. | Emilee Chinn/Getty Images, Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty Images

The day before OBJ was released, Browns guard Joel Bitonio offered a somewhat surprising message of understanding.

“We think he’s a great player when he’s on the field, but we don’t know what the situation is. We probably know as much as you guys know,” Bitonio said. “But if he wants to come back and be part of the team, I’m sure we’d welcome him with open arms.”

Even Mayfield, who’s seemingly the subject of OBJ’s frustration, was calm and collected when questioned about his wide receiver’s desire to leave Cleveland.

“Hurt?” responded Mayfield when asked if the news hurt him. “Nah. Surprised? Yes.”

The Browns are clearly looking to move on

Beckham Jr. was once viewed as an integral part of the Browns’ franchise. Now, he’s on the waiver wire hunting for a new team.

Clearly, players around the Browns organization were pretty blindsided by the news. Instead of lashing out at OBJ for how he forced his way out, they offered up words of understanding. It’s a very mature thing for a team to do in the middle of a frustrating season.

It wouldn’t have been surprising in the slightest if Bitonio, Mayfield, or another Browns player went out of their way to bash OBJ (someone did anonymously).

With all of that said, the Browns are now looking to move on and move forward. Jarvis Landy will presumably pick up most of the slack in the passing game, while younger WRs Donovan Peoples-Jones and Anthony Schwartz will also have to step up.

All stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference.

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