In the twenty four hours since the news was announced that Cleveland Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon was cited for a speeding ticket and one of his three passengers (identity still unknown) admitted to possessing marijuana, the reaction has been loud and angry. Most critics are loudly demanding for the Browns simply cut Gordon and my question is simple: How are the Browns a better football team if they cut Josh Gordon right now? Most of the reasons that people will bring up are flimsy and easily disprovable. The fact of the matter is that while people can be furious with Gordon and no has to like him, there is no benefit in cutting him right now and most of the supposed benefits that people suggest the Browns would get from cutting him are actually already included in his likely suspension.
Josh Gordon has terrible judgment. This is not even a question. Legally, the speeding ticket is all Gordon will be cited for from this incident, but no one should give Gordon the benefit of the doubt. He is going to be lucky to get past this with only a ticket, but that is all anyone can pin on him beyond simply being stupid. The best case scenario is that Gordon was simply putting himself in a car with people who were smoking weed.
Many calling for the Browns to cut Gordon are citing the fact that he could possibly influence Johnny Manziel or other teammates negatively and possibly drag them down. While that is unlikely on its face, even if that were to be true, when the league comes down with a suspension, Gordon cannot have contact with anyone from the team. When he was out for two games last year, he was essentially cut off from the Browns entirely. As a result, that argument is bogus.
There are some suggesting the Browns need to send a message that this is unacceptable. What message could the Browns possibly send that the league would not already be sending? He is likely facing a yearlong suspension and just like last year where he was not paid for four games, this year he would not get a dime for the entire year. What more can the Browns do? In addition to being a pariah to the team and the city and not getting paid, Josh gets to be a free agent too? Wouldn’t it be more difficult for Josh to have to suit again with this team and in this city to prove he can be a professional?
So what does it cost the Browns to keep Josh Gordon? Less than a million in cap space and he does not even cost them a roster spot. If Gordon was making a substantial amount of money, cutting him would make sense. As it is, he is entering the last year of his deal and while he will not get a dime of it should he be suspended, it is not even 1% of the team’s salary cap.
If the Browns were to cut him, he misses a year and then comes back and signs a one year contract for somewhere between $2-5 million in a prove it deal and even gives them half of what he gave the Browns last year, it is a huge boost. Is the catharsis of the fans and media asking for Gordon to be released that important to give another team a potent weapon?
The last bad argument I’ve heard is that Gordon simply cannot be relied upon, doesn’t care, and therefore the Browns cannot win with him. If Gordon didn’t care and put up 1,646 and 9 touchdowns with the trio of terrible quarterbacks the Browns had last season, what could he do if he suddenly did care? Moreover, the league is full of players and teams that have been multiple time screw-ups and helped teams win. The Seattle Seahawks lead the league in substance abuse related suspensions since 2011 with 7, because Richard Sherman’s was overturned. That does NOT include suspensions for PEDs. The Seahawks just won the Super Bowl. You can’t win with these guys? Evidently, you can.
Brandon Browner had to fight a yearlong suspension and after becoming a free agent, signed with another team that would supposedly not put up with this nonsense in the New England Patriots. That year’s suspension was reduced to four games, but the Patriots signed him anyway.
Josh Gordon’s track record shows he gets one drug arrest per season. He may full well give the Browns a reason to cut him, but this traffic stop is not it. The NFL has not even announced the length of Gordon’s upcoming suspension. If the NFL comes back and says Gordon will only miss 6-8 games, most of the people who wanted him cut will suddenly change their mind and hope he can he put up 1,000 yards in the remainder of the season.
And especially with the media in and around Cleveland, many of those clamoring for Gordon to be cut now, were hoping the Browns would draft Tyrann Mathieu when he was coming out of LSU with a history of about a dozen failed drug tests in his time there. At the very least there is a disconnect here if not outright hypocrisy.
It remains to be seen if Josh Gordon will ever play another NFL game in his career, but if he does, it should be in a Browns uniform at least for the time being. The second round pick used to get him is a sunk cost and these moves by Gordon have made his bargaining power almost nonexistent when it comes to a new contract. If he can use a yearlong suspension to find rock bottom and decide that catching footballs more fun than smoking weed, the Browns could have a phenomenally talented redemption story that could help them win a Super Bowl down the road. If he can’t, his career will go up in smoke.
Cutting him for the sake of catharsis does not actually benefit the team. It would likely do just as much good to have angered fans and media line up around the block in Berea to punch Josh Gordon in the stomach. That’s how irrational this whole situation is when it comes to cutting Gordon. Making angered critics feel better for half a second does not make the team better. The vast majority of the same fans that insisted they never wanted LeBron James back after the ‘The Decision’ are now hoping and praying that he comes back to Cleveland. If the Browns cut Gordon and he goes on to great things elsewhere, fans will be angry the Browns got rid of him and wish he was back.