For years in the center of the Odell Beckham Jr. universe, Von Miller has been the bellwether.
If you wanted to know where Beckham's head was at when things were falling apart with the New York Giants or never really coming together with the Cleveland Browns, the people in Beckham's closest circle usually had the same opinion: They might not know precisely what Beckham was thinking, but there was little doubt who did.
Listen to Von Miller.
The suggestion was simple. Even if Miller wasn't willing to violate the trust that the two friends shared and tell exactly what was going on, he almost certainly would drop a hint from time to time. Arguably no other NFL player has been consistently closer to Beckham over the course of his career. The two talk regularly. They've worked out and rehabbed together in the offseasons. Their families are close. And they finally achieved a longstanding dream in the 2021 season, playing and winning a Super Bowl together with the Los Angeles Rams, then putting a cherry on top of it all by teaming up with Jalen Ramsey and Aaron Donald to actually help design the gargantuan world championship rings that followed.
It's why when Miller surprisingly left the Rams in the offseason during free agency, the people who knew the pair best couldn’t help but be skeptical that Beckham was a lock to return to Los Angeles when his surgically repaired knee was rehabbed for the second half of the 2022 season. As much as the Rams wanted Odell back and remained confident that he’d run it back this season, the people inside the circle with Beckham and Miller kept cracking a seemingly unlikely door open. After all, Miller has always been a trusted and sometime persuasive friend in Beckham’s life and vice-versa. So much so, there was even a moment in the summer of 2020 that Miller broached the idea of figuring out a way to join Beckham in Cleveland. Beckham pushed back hard on that, perhaps anticipating the implosion that ultimately resulted in his release from the franchise last season.
But as soon as Miller was traded to the Rams in early November, the inside Beckham's circle started reiterating that age old message: Listen to Von Miller.
There was little doubt he was already recruiting Beckham, and he was doing it at the very moment the wideout was trying to force his way off Cleveland’s roster. Within two weeks, both had exactly what they wanted. The Browns relented and agreed to release Beckham, and Miller and Ramsey immediately rolled out the red carpet between California and Ohio.
All of this is more a matter of history than secret, of course. The friendship and influence the two players have on each other have been chronicled before. But it's an important piece of history in the coming days, because Beckham's free agency is expected to heat up heading into November. And despite the torn ACL that occurred in February's Super Bowl win, it's going to be a crowded room that comes calling. Not just because of what Beckham showcased in his brief mercenary stint with the Rams last season, but also because the middle ranks of the league is bursting with teams in need of an adrenaline shot. A lot of good teams could use a talented wideout who had such a dramatic impact in the red zone last season.
The Rams could certainly use him. So could the Green Bay Packers, Kansas City Chiefs, Baltimore Ravens and a handful of other offenses experiencing a 2022 roller coaster with their top-tier quarterbacks. And you can be certain that Beckham is keeping an eye on all of them, too. He already admitted as much on Twitter on Thursday, during an exchange with former NFL player Marcus Spears.
In the exchange, Beckham asked Spears to remove the Dallas Cowboys franchise that Spears used to play for and offer his top five destinations. Spears replied with (you could have guessed it), the Chiefs, Packers, Rams, Buffalo Bills and Ravens. Beckham replied, "we see eye to eye" with a pair of smiling emojis that were high-fiving each other.
(You have to love social media for the free agency theater.)
As much as this was an important little tip from Beckham, there may have been another that was more telling. And that was when Miller told reporters Wednesday that he like the fit between Beckham and the Bills, and already believes he knows where Odell is likely headed.
"I talk to him probably every week,” Miller told reporters. “I check in with him, keep in touch with him. OBJ, he’s a vet in this league too. He understands teams and the way teams are built, too. I’m sure when he looks at our team he can see himself fitting on our team. He’s going on tour now. He’s going to [the] Giants' practice facility, and the Saints, Tampa and all that stuff, which you should. You should go around, see the league and get the love.
"He’s still on Super Bowl tour. He’s done just about everything in this league. You want to go around and get the love. Me, personally, the way I like to think, I think when it’s time to start chopping the block, I think when it’s time to get down the business, we already know where he’s going to be at. In my eyes, I think I know where he’s going to be at.”
Miller isn’t sitting there with reporters talking up Beckham because he thinks he’s going to end up back with the Rams or sign up with one of Buffalo’s top competitors. He’s saying it because he thinks — or knows — that Buffalo is the destination. He’s effectively saying, “I want Odell to go out there and enjoy the courtship and attention, but I also know he’s coming home at the end of the night. And home is in Buffalo.”
That is the classic Von Miller bellwether moment. And it makes sense because the Bills aren't a difficult sell at this stage. They have one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL in Josh Allen, who can improvise into massive game-breaking plays and he also represents an upgrade over Matthew Stafford. The Bills have a sick defense and a dominant No. 1 wideout, which guarantees that Beckham isn't signing up to become the focal point of defenses. They have a coaching staff and fan base that connects deeply with the players. They also have an ability to add a piece at the trade deadline and cement an already top-tier shot to win the Super Bowl.
Oh, and lest we forget, they also have arguably Beckham’s closest friend in the NFL, Von Miller, who is leading the recruiting.
This union might not be an absolute lock in early October — after all, there is a lot of time left on the schedule and plenty can go wrong in the next month — but it’s about as close as you get. Respect what history tells you about this situation and pay attention to the bellwether. The Odell Beckham Jr. recruitment is bound to be fun. But it also might be over before it starts.