According to The Plain Dealer, Gordon faces a one-year banishment from the NFL if he fails another drug test. This means the Browns have to re-evaluate the long-term future of Gordon, and as a result, their entire wide receiver position.
No one is suggesting that the Browns cut ties with Gordon. They just can't build their passing attack around Gordon in 2014 and beyond. They can no longer trust Gordon will stay out of trouble, especially when you're dealing with such a severe penalty. They can't go into next season thinking Gordon will be catching 60-yard touchdowns because his history suggests that's too much of a gamble.
Considered one of the league's top breakout candidates for this season, Gordon is the only receiver on the Browns who can consistently strike fear into defenses. Greg Little is a solid No. 2 receiver. Davone Bess will come up big on third downs and as a leader in the locker room. Travis Benjamin can stretch the field but he's too light to be more than a situational player.
For two games this season, the Browns can make up for Gordon's absence by moving Bess into the starting lineup and by throwing deep to Benjamin on occasions. If Gordon is gone for 16 games, the Browns can chalk up another double-digit loss season with a wide receiver group of Little, Bess, Benjamin and David Nelson.
The Browns has the means to upgrade their wide receivers next offseason. Cleveland will once again have sizable salary-cap room to go along with 10 draft picks. The Browns picked up additional picks in the third and fourth rounds with trades in this year's draft. Of course, if Weeden doesn't establish himself this year, quarterback becomes a bigger need than receiver but that's a topic for another time.
Some may think this is an overreaction. If you believe Gordon, his latest failed drug test was the result of cough syrup prescribed for strep throat. The problem is, the NFL only suspends players on their second violation. So, Gordon failed another drug test in addition to the latest one. The Browns can't feel confident that Gordon will correct his ways when you consider his two failed tests in the NFL and his three failed marijuana tests in college.
To be honest, I'm not sure if the Browns' new regime has ever been sold on Gordon. It was president Mike Holmgren and general manager Tom Heckert who rolled the dice by taking Gordon in the second round of last year's supplemental draft. Given the state of the Browns' receiving group, you couldn't knock them for taking a chance on a target with so much potential.
But chief executive officer Joe Banner has repeatedly been hesitant when asked if the drafting of Gordon was the right move.
"A top-of-the-second-round pick on a wide receiver, you would hope by the second or third year you'd have a big, big impact player," Banner said at the NFL combine in February. "I think he still has improvements [he] could make and there's hope that he can do that. He's still got to grow and work hard in order to answer that question."
Gordon is 22, with the size (6 feet 3) and playmaking ability (average of 16.1 yards per catch) that teams covet. Browns quarterback Brandon Weeden said Gordon "has the ability to be a top-three receiver in the NFL." One NFL executive once said Gordon has "Randy Moss-like talents."
But, knowing that his next mistake (accident or not) can put him on the sidelines for a year, the risk outweighs the reward if you make Gordon part of your long-term plans.