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Motivated by constant trade rumors, Browns WR Josh Gordon improves his worth by the game

Oct 17, 2013 -- 6:00am

By Tony Grossi | ESPNCleveland.com

 

Photo/Getty

The Morning Kickoff …

Stop the insanity: The NFL trading deadline is 12 days away – Oct. 29. It can’t get here soon enough for those of us sweating out a Browns trade of Josh Gordon.

Since the Browns traded Trent Richardson a month ago, Gordon has been rumored to be dealt to just about any contending team in need of a 6-3, 225-pound receiver who runs a sub-4.5 40. And which team in this pass-happy era doesn’t need an elite receiver?

Despite denials from Browns coach Rob Chudzinski and CEO Joe Banner that the Browns “are not shopping” Gordon and don’t have “any plan or intention” to trade Gordon, the rumors or expectations of a trade haven’t slowed.

Last week, Peter King, the highly respected football insider, conjured a list of “four trades I want to see” in one of his columns in themmqb.com. King acknowledged, “I realize only No. 1 has a chance.” No. 1 on his list was Gordon to San Francisco for the 49ers’ second-round draft pick in 2014.

Over at NFL.com, Gil Brandt, the highly respected former Dallas Cowboys personnel guru, on Wednesday compiled his own list of trades “that should be made.” He suggested the Browns trade Gordon to the New York Jets for their second-round draft pick in 2014.

Brandt wrote: “Though the team has insisted Gordon is not on the block, if the Cleveland Browns, who are trying to stockpile draft choices, could get a second-round pick back, I think they'd be happy to trade him.”

Minuses and pluses: Why am I opposed to any trade of Gordon?

1. He has the highest level of athletic, physical skills of any receiver I’ve ever seen in a Browns uniform. Ever? Yes, literally ever. Hall of Famer Paul Warfield? Gordon is bigger, faster, stronger.

Give or take a few inches or hundredths of a second in the 40, Gordon, physically, is in the same class as Calvin Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald, A.J. Green and Julio Jones. Age-wise, Gordon, 22, is six years younger than Johnson, eight younger than Fitzgerald, three younger than Green and two younger than Jones.

2. Every time he catches the ball, I feel a big play can happen.

Granted, Gordon has had his share of drops. Two stick out – one in Indianapolis last year for a sure go-ahead touchdown late in the game; and the one on the second play against Buffalo this year, which would have been an 80-yard touchdown.

But those drops don’t detract from the confidence that emanates from him. Gordon is naturally smooth as a pass-catcher, has consistently enlarged his repertoire as a route-runner, plays as big as he is, works hard, and is learning to study his opponents. Because of his size, Gordon is almost always open.

So why do the trade rumors persist, and why did Banner offer the caveat to USA Today, “If you're in this long enough, you learn to never say anything absolute, because then something comes up and you look like you lied.”?

It’s the specter of a “one-year banishment” that hangs over Gordon.

Gordon has admitted his understanding is that one more violation of the NFL substance abuse policy – a positive test or a refusal to submit to a test – will result in a one-year suspension.

Those terms place Gordon in Stage Three of the NFL intervention program. Under terms of the program, Gordon is subject to unannounced testing up to 10 times a month. A slip-up just one time means Gordon “will be banished from the NFL for a minimum period of one calendar year.”

And here’s the rub, directly from the NFL substance abuse policy: “A player in Stage Three will remain in Stage Three for the remainder of his career.”

The chill effect: During the Browns’ preview show on the club’s radio network Wednesday night, Gordon spoke of the effect the constant trade rumors has had on him.

“It definitely crossed my mind a bunch of times, seeing them at home on the television screen,” Gordon said. “I was at home just thinking, I wonder if my phone was going to ring any moment now, considering what took place not too long ago with Trent. So all of us were on our toes after something like that happened.

“It’s a business, the NFL. So whatever the front office deems like a reasonable smart business move, you can’t feel bad or be angry about it. So I was prepared either way. But, regardless, I felt I had even more to prove to either the Browns or the potential team that was going to get me.

“So I could go out there and play and I don’t (want) to be that player that has to be shopped around because you’re not accountable or a good player, so I definitely want to go out there and make my mark each week. Even still, through the deadline, you’re still not sure. That’s definitely my approach to it right now. I’m definitely going to go out each Sunday and play my game and do my job.”

The trade rumors hit all the network pre-game shows the morning of Gordon’s first game back from his two-game suspension. Here are his game statistics since coming back:

Opponent        Catches   Yards   Average   Long     TD

Minnesota            10            146      14.6          47          1

Cincinnati             4                71      17.8          33          0

Buffalo                  4                86      21.5          37          1

Detroit                   7              126      18.0          36          0

Now, have the Browns planted the trade rumors for the purpose of motivating Gordon?  Or would they seriously be willing to accept a second-round pick for him?

The answer to both questions may be yes.

 

Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and www.espncleveland.com.

He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 46 voters for the National Football League Hall of Fame. Email your “Hey Tony” questions to tgrossi@espncleveland.com

Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi

 

 

 

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