Troubled Cleveland Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon may still have a future in the NFL, but the New York Giants should pass on him for now.
It wasn’t all that long ago when the New York Giants actively pursuing Cleveland Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon made plenty of sense. The Giants needed help at the position, particularly from an athlete possessing Gordon’s size and impressive physical skills. Gordon needed an opportunity to resurrect his career away from the Browns and his price tag likely would’ve been low because of his well-documented problems with (allegedly) following certain NFL rules.
Much has changed about the situation since last September. For starters, Gordon hasn’t played a down of meaningful football since the 2014 campaign. The 25-year-old appeared in only five contests that year after serving a 10-game ban, and he missed the entire 2015 season after he violated the league’s substance abuse policy. Gordon returned to the field for preseason action last August, but that return ended before it officially began after he left the Browns to enter an in-patient rehabilitation facility. That decision, per Austin Knoblauch of NFL.com, canceled his reinstatement for the time being.
Gordon remains indefinitely suspended from playing for the Browns, Giants or any other NFL team. His status for the 2017 NFL season remains a mystery to every club in the league. For all anybody knows, Gordon may decide it is in his best interests to pursue endeavors away from football before September rolls around.
The potential reward is no longer worth the risk of signing Gordon for a Giants team that came within a couple of victories of playing in the Super Bowl earlier this year. Gordon is one wrong off-the-field incident from being banned, potentially permanently, from the NFL. And there is currently no indication he can avoid such trouble while on a league roster.
A player’s most important ability is “availability,” so goes the sports cliche. But Gordon’s suspension history isn’t even the biggest reason the Giants should pass on him in 2017. Gordon’s outstanding 2013 season, during which he played like the best receiver in the NFL for a period of time, is now nothing but a distant memory. Technically, Gordon should still be in his physical prime, but he hasn’t really been a full-time NFL player for three years and counting.
On paper, Gordon is an ideal replacement for Victor Cruz, the New York fan favorite the Giants released for several reasons. Gordon is a bigger target for quarterback Eli Manning than Odell Beckham Jr. or Sterling Shepard. Even if he is no longer the player of old, a version of Gordon half as good as the player who featured for the Browns back in 2013 is a solid third option at the position.
Remember, though, that the Giants are dealing with a real locker room filled with real players and not a fantasy football situation or a video game simulation. Cruz served as the veteran leader of the team’s wide receiver unit after returning from a career-threatening knee injury. Moreover, he was the elder statesman who worked with Beckham, Shepard and others during midweek practices and in film room sessions.
Beckham is already one of the most talented offensive weapons in the NFL and a player who deserved MVP votes for all that he provided to the Giants this past season. He’s also known for letting his emotions get the best of him during games, and he turned 24 years old only last November. Expecting Beckham to become a veteran leader on the New York roster this year is unrealistic and, in some ways, unfair.
Paul Schwartz of the New York Post recently offered a list of potential receivers the Giants could target to replace Cruz in the lineup and in the locker room. Alshon Jeffery and the Chicago Bears may part ways if the Bears decide to not retain him via the franchise tag or by signing him long-term. The Browns may lose Terrelle Pryor unless they franchise tag the converted quarterback who proved himself as a solid wideout in 2016.
Brandon Marshall could be an interesting name for Giants fans to follow over the next several weeks. Marshall enjoyed a successful season with the New York Jets back in 2015, but he found the end zone only three times last year. The 32-year-old often speaks his mind, and he is also a respected veteran who has proven he can handle and even thrive playing in the country’s largest sports market. Gang Green is building past the 2017 season, however, and the club could move on from Marshall sooner than later.
There may come a day when the Giants are a perfect fit for Gordon. However, this offseason is too important for a team with Eli Manning in the twilight of his career to take a chance on a project when other proven options are on the market. Simply put, Gordon is too much of a liability for the Giants until he proves his worth while with a different team.