FRISCO, Texas — As the Dallas Cowboys welcomed Odell Beckham Jr. for a visit Monday and Tuesday, two lines of thought emerged.
Should the 9-3 team bring in high-ceiling talent in the hopes that he’ll be the missing piece, or at the very least welcome receiver depth, ahead of their Super Bowl push?
Or should Dallas cut through the flash (yes, team owner Jerry Jones created a lot of it himself) to substance, critically assess Beckham’s rehabilitation from a February ACL tear and avoid financial and medical risk in favor of awarding snaps and 2023 salary- capping space at their current roster core?
Consider some of the Cowboys brass postings this week.
In an interview, an executive said he would “probably do something uncomfortable with him” and prioritize reward over risk because “we have a quarterback.” [in Dak Prescott] it could really make music with him. Beckham is “the real deal” with some tread left in his career. “I want it to work,” said the executive. “I will try to make it work. I will look for reasons to do [the deal]no reason not to.
Now consider another Cowboys management interview this week.
“I’m not confident at all,” the team boss said of Beckham’s current health. “We must enter with our eyes wide open [because] make no mistake about it: the medical is important. The executive declined to confirm that a return-to-play schedule after this season would definitely take a deal off the table. “It’s tough out there,” the official said. “But this year is paramount.”
The second interview ended with the following comments framing the prospects of deal or no deal ahead.
“One way or another, there is no failure here,” they said. “There is no disappointment here.”
From whom, and when, did these remarks come? The answer is revealing.
The 2 sides of Jerry Jones
The first interview, dreaming of rainbows, unicorns and butterflies with Beckham wearing the star, came from Jerry Jones. He spoke to reporters until 11 p.m. Sunday outside the team’s locker room at AT&T Stadium following Dallas’ 54-19 victory over the Indianapolis Colts.
Dallas had won its ninth game of the season. Beckham was on his way to visit the facility a few hours later. Expected opportunity.
The second interview?
This aired Tuesday beginning at 8:30 a.m. CT on Dallas radio station 105.3 The Fan, the Cowboys’ flagship station. Less than 34 hours had passed since Jones’ post-match comments.
Beckham had previously met with Jones, McCarthy, head athletic trainer Jim Maurer and rehabilitation director Britt Brown. He previously sat on the field in the Dallas Mavericks game alongside Cowboys All-Pro linebacker Micah Parsons and Cowboys All-Pro cornerback Trevon Diggs. More meetings are expected Tuesday, including a scheduled visit with Cowboys board players Prescott and running back Ezekiel Elliott.
Amid the buzz of Beckham’s visit, who gave this much more cautious, hesitant, borderline pessimistic interview?
None other than the same man who spoke on Sunday night: Jerry Jones.
Jones’ role with the Cowboys is multifaceted, but most often split into two buckets. He is the owner of the team. He is also, unlike any of the 30 other NFL owners (or members of the ownership group who own stock in the Green Bay Packers), the team’s general manager. Over the years, the Dallas media have come to make a distinction that head coach Mike McCarthy has stated publicly several times this year.
When you hear Jerry Jones speak, do you think which Jerry is talking about: Team Owner Jerry or GM Jerry?
On Sunday night, the team owner and chief promoter was out in the open.
On Tuesday morning, the CEO’s lens shone brighter.
Will the Cowboys make a deal with Beckham?
On Wednesday morning, after Beckham returned home, McCarthy called Beckham’s visit “very positive” and “productive.” Like Jones, he was impressed by Beckham. Like Jones, he focused his praise on Beckham’s character rather than his potential to increase Dallas’ roster.
“I really don’t have an update” on a timeline, McCarthy said, filibustering with a reminder that the Cowboys are gearing up for a game Sunday against the Houston Texans. He said he had not spoken to Jerry Jones, executive vice president Stephen Jones or vice president of player personnel Will McClay about the negotiations.
Asked in the hallway by Yahoo Sports on Wednesday afternoon, Jerry Jones reiterated that he had no update on the negotiations.
“We’re still working on it,” Jones said, citing the sensitive nature of the health talks when he declined to answer some questions.
McCarthy declined to confirm whether Beckham was ready to play. He also declined to say whether the team had made an offer to the receiver.
“There are a lot of variables when it comes to medical,” McCarthy said. “Not only am I not talking about the medical, I am not talking about the financial. This is the commercial side of our business.
Parsons, who visited Beckham for several hours during the Mavericks game, said Beckham had set his return to play schedule at five weeks. That would rule out Beckham for the entire regular season. Coming back into full gear for the playoffs would be tough.
Veteran Dallas Morning News writer David Moore reported that Beckham did not train or do any “physical activity” during his two-day visit. It appears to be contributing to the team’s hesitation regarding his health.
The tenor of the dressing room also began to change on Wednesday following Beckham’s visit. Several players have indicated in conversations with Yahoo Sports that they want to focus on the team’s upcoming games and current situation rather than speculating on a player who is not yet healthy enough to play. Veteran defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence refused to even confirm that it was “fair” to see he wanted Beckham internally.
“It’s fair to say I’m trying to get to a Super Bowl,” Lawrence joked. “So if he can come and help us with that, then yes, I’ll accept it. But if we’re just going to have a circus, no I’m not.
“I’m focused on this year, this team, what we have in this dressing room and the journey we’re on.”
Some players worried about a distraction derailing what they thought was a special season.
Could a deal with Beckham still materialize? Neither he nor the team have publicly ruled out that possibility, though their silence and inactivity speaks volumes. Could Beckham not sign this season, instead signing with a team in the spring once he should not only be medically cleared but ready to return to football? A growing sentiment surrounds this notion.
McCarthy reiterated a thought from Tuesday that has characterized all of Beckham’s college-style recruiting.
“I’ve never been part of this type of situation in December,” he said. “It’s a very special situation.”
And the Cowboys, as Beckham’s recruiting dramatically showed, are a very unique team.
Follow Yahoo Sports’ Jori Epstein on Twitter @JoriEpstein
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