Rob Chudzinski and the new regime of the Cleveland Browns have made it very clear that roster spots are not safe this season. After dealing a former first-round selection in running back Trent Richardson to the Indianapolis Colts for a 2014 first-round pick, the Browns have hurled their current roster into a complete overhaul.
Not only was Richardson traded, but starting quarterback Brandon Weeden also lost his job temporarily to third-string quarterback Brian Hoyer after Weeden suffered a thumb injury. Heading into Week 7, the only reason that Weeden was back under center was due to the unfortunate season-ending injury to Hoyer.
Again, this proved that no one's job is safe.
The Browns coaching staff has not been pulling any punches and may look to deal more players before the trade deadline this season.
There are plenty of teams right now that could use the extra talent at the wide receiver position. Teams like the New England Patriots, San Diego Chargers, Green Bay Packers, San Francisco 49ers and even the Colts are contenders who find themselves lacking offensive weapons.
Clearly, Gordon is a highly sought-after target. His return to the Browns after serving his two-game suspension this season has created a noticeable spark in the Cleveland offense.
Upon Gordon's return, Hoyer led the Browns to two straight wins during Weeks 3 and 4 while throwing five touchdown passes in that stretch. Jordan Cameron and Gordon provided him a one-two punch that kept defenses off balance enough despite the Browns lacking a solid running game.
In only five games this season, Gordon has already accumulated 27 receptions for 450 yards and two touchdowns. He is the perfect complement to the athletic tight end in Cameron and could allow this offense to flourish in the near future.
Now, the Browns have a big decision to make regarding the future of the team. They could trade Gordon now and gain one more high draft pick, or they could keep him and build the offense around the talented wide receiver.
The choice seems simple. Without Gordon on the field, the Browns were a completely different team. The offense looked stagnant for the most part without a legitimate wide receiver on the outside. Cameron can only do so much at the tight end position before he begins to see very unfavorable matchups.
The Browns cannot count on the services of Greg Little going forward. His inconsistent play and constant struggles with dropped passes make him more of a liability than anything. In fact, Little has performed so poorly in 2013 that Pro Football Focus (subscription required) graded him with a negative-5.6 overall ranking—good enough for 105th out of a possible 107 eligible receivers.
The trade for Richardson made sense for the Browns. Serviceable running backs seem to be a dime a dozen these days. With some very good backs coming from the later rounds of the draft—such as St. Louis Rams 2013 fifth-round pick Zac Stacy—recouping a first-rounder for Richardson was a smart move.
Legitimate wide receivers, however, are a little tougher to find. Countless receivers are selected year in and year out during the NFL draft. A very small percentage actually flourish as the No. 1 option on an offense—Gordon is one of the few.
If the Browns want to have any stability on the offensive side of the ball going forward, Gordon and Cameron are two targets that must still be in place when Hoyer returns next year.
The only way that Cleveland could ever think of letting go of the talented Gordon would be if another team were to grossly overpay. At least a 2014 first-round selection—and maybe even a 2015 conditional selection—should be enough to part ways. Anything less would be foolish.
Cleveland simply cannot afford to regress after the immense amount of progress it has made over the course of the season. Letting Gordon go at a discount price would easily place this team back in the gutter of the AFC North where it has continued to dwell for far too long.
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