At this point, you really have to give the Cleveland Browns some credit. Somehow, a team which is rebuilding with a roster almost fully composed of rookies and is in the middle of an 0-3 start is also stealing a large amount of headlines this season.
There have been piles and piles of injuries. There’s the ascension of Carson Wentz, whose hype will tell you he’s the greatest quarterback to ever grace us with his presence and will forever be known as the guy Cleveland passed on. Or the fact it took the Browns four weeks to finally have the same starting QB for two games in a row.
Then, there was yesterday. For the second time in two years, Browns fans got an alert about one of the team’s players entering rehab.
This time, it was Pro Bowl wideout Josh Gordon, who was just days away from being activated from his latest suspension.
Gordon, citing “some pressure and stress” he’s been dealing with, claimed he’s heading to a treatment facility. It was a bit of a shock, as it seemed he was finally moving in the right direction. Many fans who were dreaming of a wideout corps featuring Gordon, breakout star Terrelle Pryor and, eventually, rookie Corey Coleman are now wondering when they’ll see the former on the field again.
There are many who are speculating Gordon’s NFL career may be over, though the “see you soon” he added to his farewell for now tweet seems to imply he hopes this isn’t the end. That said, if this isn’t the conclusion of his time in the league, it certainly had to be the close to his time in Cleveland.
Despite the undeniable talent Gordon brings with him, despite the Browns’ continued support of him this year, it was time for the team to finally move on.
This is not meant to be a shot at Gordon. This isn’t the same situation where he failed a drug test and claimed it wasn’t a big deal. Though we may eventually hear such a thing sparked this move, for all intents and purposes he’s doing this as a choice. Gordon is volunteering to seek help, and as unfortunate as that is for his football career, you can’t fault someone for choosing to better his life.
At the same time, there was just no sense in the Browns continuing to hold out hope he’ll eventually contribute for them.
Outside of this past preseason, Gordon hasn’t touched the field since December 2014. Suspensions have shortened or erased his season every year since 2012. Cleveland has continued to give him chances to prove reliable, yet he still can’t get back in the lineup.
Again, despite the fact Gordon deserves credit for seeking help on his own, he’s also making the likelihood he’ll ever be a full-time player increasingly doubtful.
Affecting the issue, too, is the fact Gordon is in the final year of his contract. This was easier when he was still under control at a very team-friendly price. The Browns could give him more chances, knowing they weren’t risking a ton of money. However, he’s a restricted free agent next year, meaning Cleveland would’ve had to offer him a new contract.
If you’re in the front office, and you’re deciding whether or not to offer a player a deal, it’s difficult to argue against the fact said player hasn’t played a full season in four years. What happens if the Browns had chosen to keep Gordon around, only to watch him run into issues again? Or if they signed him, only to watch him walk away because he decides he still needs to handle his inner demons.
At the end of the day, while Gordon’s latest decision is commendable, it also could very well end another one of his seasons before it ever started. While the Browns should definitely continue to support him any way they can, they also have to make decisions which benefit the team in the long run. Unfortunately, holding a roster spot for someone who may never be able to play a full season doesn’t qualify as such.
I hope Gordon is finally able to get his life together, and I do hope he’s eventually able to cash in on his God-given talent. However, it won’t be in Cleveland, and that was the right move for the team to make.