An undeniable talent, Josh Gordon is also a risk. And the Browns believe one worth hanging on to.
With rampant trade speculation swirling around Gordon for weeks, the Browns decided to keep the wide receiver who has developed into Cleveland’s top playmaker but whose off-field issues will continue to loom over the team.
When the NFL’s 4 p.m. trade deadline arrived Tuesday, the Browns sent out official word that they did not make any deals — involving Gordon or any other player on their roster. The Browns received calls on a number of players, but did not accept an offer.
Following Cleveland’s 23-17 loss on Sunday in Kansas City, Gordon, who was suspended for two games earlier this season for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy, said he was eager for the deadline to pass.
”I do want to stay in Cleveland,” he said after catching five passes 132 yards and a 39-yard touchdown. ”Cleveland is my first home, the team I got drafted to. It’s a great place to be. I love the fans in Cleveland and everything about it, but business is business.”
On Monday, coach Rob Chudzinski reiterated that the team was not ”shopping” Gordon or any other players.
Besides fielding calls on potential deals, the Browns were busy tweaking their roster.
The club signed free agent wide receiver Armanti Edwards, who previously played under Chudzinski in Carolina.
The 5-foot-11 Edwards returned punts for the Panthers and he may get a shot to do that with the Browns after Travis Benjamin sustained a season-ending knee injury on Sunday while returning a punt in the third quarter.
The Browns placed the speedy Benjamin on injured reserve as he waits to have surgery.
Also, Cleveland signed rookie offensive lineman Reid Fragel off Cincinnati’s practice squad. The 6-foot-8, 305-pound Fragel was drafted in the seventh round by the Bengals from Ohio State.
The Browns also re-signed linebacker Brandon Magee and receiver Tori Gurley to the practice squad.
The Browns began getting inquiries about Gordon shortly after they traded running back Trent Richardson to Indianapolis last month in exchange for a first-round draft pick in 2014.
It’s easy to see why Gordon would draw outside interest from any team in the market for a wide receiver. The 6-foot-4, 225-pound Gordon has 32 catches for 582 yards and three touchdowns in six games this season. He’s had three 100-yard receiving games, is averaging 18.2 yards per catch and all eight of his career TDs have been at least 20 yards long.
However, Gordon has some baggage.
The 22-year-old was suspended earlier this season for his second failed drug test, which he blamed on prescription cough medicine that contained codeine. He was suspended at Baylor for marijuana use and later failed a test after transferring to Utah. If he fails another drug test, Gordon could be banned from playing by the league for at least one year.
Gordon has also been twice cited this season for speeding in his car, once for going 98 mph.
He has acknowledged his shortcomings and the Browns are hoping Gordon, who was selected in the second round of the 2012 supplemental draft, will mature and continue to be a productive player. They weren’t the same without him on the field for the first two games as opposing defenses didn’t have to worry about his speed or size.
At times, the persistent trade rumors seemed to affect Gordon’s play, and he was looking forward to playing without any distractions.