OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Halfway through his introductory news conference, Odell Beckham Jr. was asked whether he had any concern signing with the Baltimore Ravens considering all the uncertainty surrounding quarterback Lamar Jackson.
Beckham looked directly at the cameras and waved his right hand.
“Lamar, if you’re watching, I would love to get to work with you,” the veteran receiver said with a smile.
Beckham acknowledged that he received no assurances from Jackson that he would be the Ravens’ quarterback before signing his one-year, $15 million contract with Baltimore. Jackson announced that he had requested a trade from the Ravens last month, and he later received the nonexclusive franchise tag from Baltimore.
According to a source, Jackson helped in the recruitment of Beckham. After Beckham reached an agreement Sunday night, he went out to dinner with Jackson in Miami before the pair went to a club together.
“The goal was to come here and have that possibility to play with him,” Beckham said Thursday.
In answering questions about Jackson for the first time since placing the tag on the former MVP, Ravens GM Eric DeCosta said he has “communicated” with Jackson since his trade request but declined to go into details about the conversation.
Jackson has until July 17 to agree to a multiyear deal with the Ravens or sign a multiyear offer sheet with another team. After that deadline, Jackson can either play under the $32.416 million tag or sit out the entire season.
“Lamar’s in our plans; we love Lamar,” DeCosta said. “Our feelings about Lamar have not changed one bit since the end of the season. We’re hopeful still that we’ll get a long-term deal done. He’s the right player for this team to lead us to where we want to be.
“I think the locker room knows that, the organization knows that. I think the fan base knows that. So it’s ongoing. But I can’t think of a situation where we wouldn’t think that our best team is with Lamar Jackson on the team in September.”
With family and business partners filling up three rows in the Ravens auditorium, Beckham spoke to reporters for nearly 40 minutes about his desire for another Super Bowl ring and the love he felt from Baltimore in free agency. He also addressed the biggest issue with him — his health.
Beckham tore the ACL in his left knee during the 2020 season, and he was informed in Week 9 of the 2021 season by doctors that he didn’t have an ACL in his surgically repaired knee. He decided to play the rest of the season without the ACL until his knee gave out in the Super Bowl.
After sitting out all of last season, Beckham hasn’t played in a game in 14 months. He said he wasn’t sure how close he currently is to his pre-injury form.
“I don’t know how to exactly answer that,” Beckham said. “I guess we’ll see in September, but I’m excited about it.”
A three-time Pro Bowler, Beckham recorded 1,000 yards receiving in five of his first six seasons. But since 2019, he has totaled 67 receptions for 856 yards in 21 games.
“This was the guy that we felt could help take us to the next level,” DeCosta said. “We saw him — his last game that he played in [the Super Bowl] — quite honestly, he was probably the best player on the field. We’ve had lots of players come back from this type of injury and flourish over time.”
Baltimore’s pursuit of Beckham dates to last October. Ravens assistant wide receivers coach Keith Williams attended Beckham’s private workout on March 11. Then on March 28, Beckham met Ravens officials at the annual league meeting in Phoenix.
The Ravens wanted Beckham so much that owner Steve Bisciotti called and spoke with him. Afterward, Beckham texted his agent: “I think I want to be a Raven.”
But Baltimore didn’t close the deal until Sunday night, swooping in a day before Beckham’s visit with the New York Jets. This was one of the biggest free-agent splashes in franchise history.
“We went into it knowing we were the underdogs,” DeCosta said. “And sometimes it’s a great story. Sometimes the underdog wins. We’re thrilled to have him here today, and we’re thrilled for what this means for our football team.”
Beckham significantly improves a Ravens wide receiver group that has ranked last in receiving yards for three of the past four seasons (2019, 2020 and 2022). Baltimore’s top three receivers before adding Beckham were Rashod Bateman, Nelson Agholor and Devin Duvernay.
The Ravens gave Beckham $15 million guaranteed, which was a team record for wide receivers. This was also $4 million more than any other wide receiver landed in free agency this year.
“The thing that we’re most excited about is that we are getting somebody who’s ready to explode again,” DeCosta said. “He’s in the right environment with the right quarterback, with the right team in the right city. It’s the perfect player at the perfect time.”