Despite landing a potential franchise quarterback in Johnny Manziel in Round 1 and adding two key offensive pieces on Day 2 of the 2014 NFL draft, the Cleveland Browns' draft weekend will be diminished by the troubling reports looming over wide receiver Josh Gordon.
According to ESPN.com's T.J. Quinn and Dan Van Natta Jr., the 23-year-old wideout is facing a potential season-long suspension after testing positive for marijuana a few months ago, a violation of the league's substance-abuse policy.
Sportswriter Rob Kelley points out the depressing shift:
While there's no telling what the next era of Browns football will bring, losing Gordon would no doubt deliver a devastating blow to a downtrodden franchise with legitimate hopes of making a turnaround.
In addition to losing a 1,600-plus-yard receiver, the Browns would be waving goodbye to a player who could have perhaps been instrumental in the development of Manziel.
Although the team's Day 2 selections, Nevada offensive lineman Joel Bitonio and Towson running back Terrance West, weren't going to rely heavily on Gordon in 2014, his presence would have no doubt made life easier for the two rookies. With a weapon like Gordon lined up on the outside, defenses have to respect him, thus opening up lanes in the running game for players like Bitonio and West to capitalize on.
But instead of the top storyline centering on what the Browns did to improve this weekend, especially on the offensive end, it will focus on what the Browns likely lost.
In typical Browns fashion, it's a case of one step forward, two steps back.
Adding insult to injury, prior to the failed drug test report surfacing, Gordon expressed that he was excited about the possibility of teaming up with Manziel during an interview on ESPN Radio's SVP and Russillo, per Quinn and Van Natta Jr.:
I think I was just a big fan of his overall game, his prowess on it. His outlook on it. His fire and ambition and will to win was greater than I think any other prospect in the draft...Despite all the mixed reviews and the media downsizing him, his perseverance seemed to be a lot greater than that. I saw something a lot deeper than just his talent that could take us to the next level.
Sadly, we may never see Manziel connecting with Gordon for a big play. But worse, we may never see Manziel reach his maximum potential.
While the Browns weren't going to live and die by Gordon in 2014, he was the team's biggest difference-maker offensively and without him, Cleveland's wide receiving corps, which just lost veteran Nate Burleson to a broken arm, is in need of a significant overhaul.
With Gordon on board and coming off a breakthrough 2013 campaign, Cleveland would have been the team to watch heading into the second half of the offseason. However, his uncertain status threatens to derail what Cleveland's building this spring and will continue to overshadow the Browns' exciting offensive additions moving forward.
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