It’s official – Josh Gordon has been reinstated by the NFL.
The announcement came down this afternoon, along with a caveat that the Cleveland Browns wideout will be suspended for the first four games of the year. However, Gordon is allowed to attend the team’s training camp and play in preseason games.
This is, of course, if Cleveland decides to hang on to him. As previously discussed, the Browns now have to figure out whether or not Gordon is worth keeping. He has yet to prove trustworthy since joining the NFL in 2012, and it’d be understandable if the new regime was skeptical about whether or not he can finally stay clean.
That said, if I had to make the choice for the new Browns coaches, I would give him another shot. Sure, this would be what feels like Gordon’s 95th chance. Still, should he actually be willing to do things right this time, it could pay off in a big way for Cleveland.
As we know, the Browns are knee-deep in a rebuild, one which involved tearing an incredibly faulty organization down to the foundation in hopes of finally cleaning out the toxicity which has plagued the team for decades. Part of this rebuild has involved getting rid of players who either had character concerns or who were past their prime. Obviously, when it comes to the former, Gordon has more than his fair share.
The Pro Bowl receiver hasn’t touched the field since December of 2014. A substance violation wiped out his entire 2015 season, and another failed test prevented his reinstatement this past April. If new coach Hue Jackson is looking for reasons why the team needs to move on from Gordon, he won’t have trouble finding some.
That said, if the Browns cut him only to watch him sign on with another team and return to his record-breaking self, they’ll never hear the end of it. Though it’s lofty to assume Gordon will look like an All-Pro right away, it’s tough to believe Cleveland will complain should he eventually find his stride again.
Now, I of course need to clarify I don’t think the Browns should just welcome Gordon back with open arms. While I think the front office should give him a chance, I don’t think it should be done without the benefit of the doubt.
Gordon should be given no free pass in this situation. The Browns have to make him prove himself. He has to show coaches that football is his top priority, something he’s failed to do so far in his young career.
Training camp and the ensuing preseason is where Gordon needs to convince Cleveland he needs to be back on the field once his suspension ends. No more half-hearted routes, no more hanging out with the wrong crowd (*cough* Johnny Manziel *cough*). Gordon is a tremendous talent, but his recent off-field issues are currently outweighing this fact in the minds of the new coaching staff.
On the bright side, the team won’t have to pin its hopes solely on him. Jackson and the Browns left the most recent draft with four new receivers who, while unproven, add more depth to this position than what was previously there. As a result, Cleveland doesn’t have to save him a roster spot out of desperation.
Additionally, Gordon is only under contract for $1.068 million this season, hardly a significant investment. If he can’t stay on the straight and narrow, the team can move on without really making much of a dent in salary.
Again, Gordon’s batting average when it comes to staying out of trouble is alarmingly low. It would make sense if Jackson and the Browns think bringing him into the fold could disrupt the work they’re trying to do getting this franchise out of the doldrums. At the same time, you can’t ignore the possibility of Gordon actually helping that cause instead of hurting it.
All winter long, we heard plenty of stories about how Gordon was taking things seriously now, working hard to stay in shape so he could make things right. In getting reinstated, he now has the chance to prove it wasn’t all hype. Cleveland needs to give him the opportunity to do so.