Are Browns Playoff Contenders With Josh Gordon Reinstated?
The Cleveland Browns have their best offensive weapon back, provided he plays by the rules. Per reports, the NFL has officially reinstated troubled star wide receiver Josh Gordon, who sat out all of 2015 due to suspension.
Gordon is Back
Gordon reportedly met with league commissioner Roger Goodell last week, which led to the NFL reinstating the receiver.
Gordon was initially told he would have to wait until August 1st to apply for reinstatement, but the league acted now to allow Gordon to report to training camp and start practicing with his team.
BREAKING: NFL reinstates Josh Gordon on a conditional basis. He will be suspended the first 4 games of season. pic.twitter.com/9Rz0xslltU
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) July 25, 2016
Per reports, Gordon will officially be able to contact the Browns and will be available to play in all of their preseason games. Gordon will, however, be suspended for the first four games of the 2016 NFL season due to a diluted drug test from earlier in the off-season.
While the Cleveland fan base and Josh Gordon have to be thrilled with this news, the rest of the NFL realm has to be raising their eyebrows. In a time where the likes of Tom Brady and Johnny Manziel have been suspended a similar four games despite having no prior league infractions, Gordon is being reinstated despite having three previous bans and a recent infraction.
The league’s decision to reinstate Gordon and slap a small four-game ban on a player who has repeatedly displayed poor decision-making is questionable at best and erratic and reckless at worst.
With Gordon’s reinstatement and a mild four-game ban, the league essentially is forgetting 11-game and 16-game suspensions issued in each of the last two years, as well as Gordon’s repeated failure to issue clean drug tests as recently as this off-season.
Most players who receive year-long bans face long roads back (if ever returning, at all), yet Gordon has made an arguably quick return despite continuing to break league rules.
While the league is certainly not playing Josh Gordon’s return by the book, it is good to see them looking out for a troubled player for a change.
They also aren’t letting Gordon completely get away with his past hiccups, as they’re requiring him to stay with the team throughout his suspension and putting the success or failure of Gordon’s future on him.
Roger Goodell said as much in a letter addressed to Gordon on Monday, per ESPN:
“As we discussed at our [July 19] meeting, as Commissioner, I want nothing more than to see you turn your circumstances around and succeed. Countless others including your agent, teammates and coaches, Mr. Haslam and the leadership of the organization, the Program professionals and Jim Brown also have pledged to provide you with every resource at their disposal. But as you acknowledged, ultimately, your future is your responsibility. I have every belief that you can make the right choices, but it will be up to you to do so.”
It’s easy to go either way on the league’s take and Josh Gordon’s chances to staying clean, but it’s tough to know what the Browns will do moving forward.
They have two choices. They can ride it out with Gordon and get him back (hopefully) in week five, or they can find a way to move on.
That likely wouldn’t mean a flat out release now that he’s reinstated, but his value should only rise seeing that he will be active come week five. Should Cleveland want to cut their losses, they could opt to trade Gordon in week five or week six, just before the league’s trade deadline.
Trading Josh Gordon wouldn’t be crazt at all, especially when you consider a new regime is in place, that regime drafted a slew of wide receivers this off-season and Gordon has failed them time and time again.
If Josh Gordon gets back on the field in Week 5, he’ll have missed 43 of 68 games since entering the league, all due to suspension.
— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) July 25, 2016
That being said, a healthy and focused Gordon is a very interesting and explosive weapon to have. Keeping Gordon would give the Browns a legit #1 wide receiver on paper and it could also help Robert Griffin III rebuild his confidence. Just like that, should Cleveland stand pat, the Browns could suddenly have a fairly formidable offense.
Browns’ Playoff Hopes
Josh Gordon trade rumors are bound to float around, but should Cleveland accept him back with open arms, there is a very real possibility he comes in as the same impact player he proved he could be during a breakout 2013 campaign.
It’s still tough to see an RG3-led team doing much in the ways of winning, but if RG3 has a weapon like Gordon and the running game and defense can do their part, Cleveland could quickly turn into a surprisingly dangerous team.
The strength of Griffin’s game has always been the deep ball, while Gordon is a dynamic athlete that can burn defenses from anywhere on the field. His return would also push the other receivers down the pecking order, which takes less pressure off of tight end Gary Barnidge and the other young receiver talent.
Of course, the downside is two-fold. Gordon won’t be available until week five, which means by then the Browns could easily be in an 0-4 hole. Then in week five Cleveland takes on a New England team that gets Tom Brady back in the same week, naturally setting the Browns up for another potential loss.
Suffice to say, Josh Gordon’s return by itself doesn’t guarantee Cleveland anything. They’re a poor bet to win their division and an even weaker bet to make the playoffs and/or make a Super Bowl run.
Josh Gordon does make the Browns better on paper, however, and he gives them some extra upside they otherwise simply would not have.
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