Why the Cleveland Browns Shouldn't Give Up on Josh Gordon Despite Latest Misstep

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Why the Cleveland Browns Shouldn't Give Up on Josh Gordon Despite Latest Misstep
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Cleveland Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon was arrested over the July 4 weekend for driving while impaired, as well as cited for speeding.

While discipline isn't expected to come down from either the NFL or the Browns organization until the case has made its way through the criminal system, he may already be under a year-long or indefinite ban from the league before that time.

Gordon reportedly failed a drug test while in Stage 3 of the NFL's substance abuse policy, according to Mary Kay Cabot of The Plain Dealer (via Pro Football Talk). Like Jacksonville's Justin Blackmon before him, that would result in an indefinite ban requiring Gordon to apply for reinstatement to the league 12 months after the ruling is handed down.

Josh Gordon's Disciplinary History
Year Incident Result
2010 Found asleep with a Baylor teammate in a car; teammate possessed marijuana Suspension
2011 Failed drug test at Baylor; tested positive for marijuana Indefinite suspension; he transferred
2013 Failed NFL drug test; codeine cough syrup Two-game suspension; loss of four game checks
2014 Failed/missed NFL drug test in Stage 3 Likely indefinite suspension; appeal pending
2014 Issued a speeding citation Given fine, pleaded not guilty
2014 Arrested for speeding, DUI Pending adjudication

via ESPN, Wikipedia

He currently has an appeals hearing scheduled for late July, according to Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk (h/t Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal), though a settlement between the two sides could be reached before then. The recent arrest certainly doesn't do him any favors, even if it is unrelated to why he's facing suspension.

Considering that Gordon is a repeat offender—dating back to his collegiate days, when Baylor suspended him in 2010 and kicked him off the team in 2011 for marijuana-related offenses—it might seem like the Browns would be better off giving him his walking papers. After all, while knowing since late April that he'd be facing a long suspension, he hasn't tried to walk the straight and narrow.

In late May, Gordon was cited for speeding, and one of his passengers was in possession of marijuana. Focusing on football, or on getting help for any of his substance abuse or impulse control problems, does not appear to be a priority at this crucial time.

Jason Miller/Getty Images
It would be good for business for the Browns to keep Gordon on the roster, but it would be even better for Gordon.

However, it would be better for the Browns and for Gordon's future—in the NFL and in life—to take the more optimistic approach. The Browns should ready themselves for a year without Gordon, but after that hope for years of productive play out of a renewed and healthy wide receiver. Tossing him to the wayside now shows little faith in or care about Gordon's future.

It also makes poor business sense.

Should Gordon be banned indefinitely, the Browns will not be on the hook for his $1.44 million salary in 2014. If he's not reinstated, then he has no salary-cap hit in the future. It would also take the decision out of the Browns' hands and into those of the league.

If he is reinstated, however, that likely means a year spent without incident, and likely one in which Gordon took proactive steps to rehabilitate himself and his image.

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In that case, the Browns will remain the home of the league's leading receiver in 2013. Though suspended for the first two games last season (and docked four game checks) for testing positive for what Gordon claimed was prescription codeine cough syrup, he still led the NFL with 1,646 yards in 2014.

A committed, trouble-free Gordon is an asset to the Browns. Cutting him now would be presumptuous—it assumes he will never put his problems in the past. Standing with Gordon, even through a year-long suspension at minimum in which he cannot be at the team's facilities, is a statement that he can make it past this problematic time.

Cutting him is akin to giving up on him, which is the last message Gordon needs to receive right now.

Though some players, like the anonymous Browns teammate quoted by Bleacher Report's Mike Freeman, might be willing to say "good riddance" to Gordon, not everyone in the NFL feels that way.

Two of his former teammates, linebacker D'Qwell Jackson and tight end Ben Watson, expressed their support through Twitter.

While Gordon's year-long ban would figuratively make him not a member of an NFL team, he'd still literally be a part of the Browns organization. That connection to football, however tenuous, could be a positive driving force in his attempt to get back in the league's good graces. Completely cut free, however, he'd be rudderless.

Some in the organization are concerned about what Gordon could get up to while lacking the support system of an NFL team, according to The Plain Dealer's Cabot, when it comes to his looming suspension. However, an even greater support system gets cut off should the Browns release him this summer or any time before he is able to apply for reinstatement.

Financially, the Browns have no incentive to cut Gordon. Further, if Gordon fails in his eventual bid for reinstatement, the Browns' work is done for them—he's not in the league, his NFL career effectively over.

Keeping him on the team would be the best move the Browns could make, if only for the sake of the minimal amount of support and motivation being part of a football team provides Gordon during his suspension. A little faith that Gordon can put his past behind him is not too much to ask.

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