Josh Gordon reportedly facing up to a year-long suspension for positive drug test
AFC NORTH, CLEVELAND BROWNS
BY CHRIS BURKE
No news may bring Cleveland Browns fans all the way down from the excitement of landing Johnny Manziel in the 2014 NFL draft, but the team’s latest development may temper their reaction a bit.
Star wide receiver Josh Gordon is facing up to a year-long ban from the NFL for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy, according to a report from ESPN’s Outside the Lines. Fox Sports’ Mike Garafolo says that Gordon is hoping to get the ban reduced to four to six games. According to ESPN, Gordon tested positive for marijuana, his second offense under the NFL’s program — last year he was suspended for two games and docked two additional game checks for a similar misstep.
Gordon’s agent, Drew Rosenhaus, told Outside the Lines that the allegation was “not true.”
The 23-year-old Gordon exploded into stardom last season, his second with Cleveland. He finished the 2013 campaign with 87 catches for an NFL-best 1,646 yards and nine touchdowns, numbers that earned him both a Pro Bowl invite and a first-team All-Pro honor.
Cleveland entered the draft seemingly in need of at least one more receiver to pair with Gordon in its offense, which now looks as if it will be Manziel-led. The Browns did add Andrew Hawkins from the Bengals earlier this offseason, as well as ex-Lion Nate Burleson in free agency; Greg Little and Travis Benjamin also return. None of those players is even in Gordon’s vicinity in terms of talent or production.
It is a safe bet, though, that the Browns were aware of Gordon’s pending situation with the league headed into this draft — one that happens to be rich with wide receivers, even after multiple players were chosen at that position in Round 1. The Browns hold the third pick in Round 2 (No. 35 overall), as well as five other selections over the duration of the draft.
At least one, and possibly more, of those spots figures to be reserved for a wide receiver. Most interesting there? The Browns had a clean shot at either Sammy Watkins or Mike Evans with the No. 4 pick on Thursday night, but instead opted to trade down with Buffalo — which came up from No. 9 to draft Watkins, in exchange for 2015 first- and fourth-round picks.
Gordon was suspended indefinitely from Baylor before the 2011 season following an arrest for marijuana, and declared for the supplemental draft shortly thereafter. The Browns forfeited a 2013 second-round pick to nab Gordon in the supplemental draft, and he said then that he had learned from his mistakes.
“Despite everything I’ve been through, despite being a kid with a spotty background, the Cleveland Browns stuck their neck out and risked taking me and put their faith and belief in me, and I won’t let them down,” Gordon told Doug Farrar. “I’m grateful, and I know I can’t go back to being the person I used to be.”
He rewarded the Browns’ faith immediately, catching 50 passes as a rookie before skyrocketing last season. With Manziel headed to Cleveland and the addition of new offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, the stage was set for Gordon to solidify his status as one of the NFL’s most productive receivers.
Instead, he may miss the entirety of the upcoming season, a devastating blow both to his development as a player and to the Browns’ chances of ascending in the AFC North.