Josh Gordon's absence leaves Browns with big void at receiver

Josh Gordon's self-reported news that he will not be present for the opening of training camp has two elements.

The first is human, as Gordon attempts to continue to work on a daily basis in a fight with addiction.

But there's also the team element, and when it comes to that aspect of the renewed uncertainty about Gordon's long-term status, the Browns' answers aren't easy.

Gordon's absence turns a receiver group that players had been gushing (excessively) about into this: Jarvis Landry and a bunch of guys.

The void should not be understated.

With Gordon, the offense seems complete. Without him, there is a sinkhole.

Landry is the one given in the group. Acquired from Miami in the offseason, Landry averaged 100 catches per season the past four years and was given a $75.5 million contract extension by the Browns in the offseason.

That deal now looks as much like Gordon insurance as it does a commitment to one player.

With Gordon opposite him, Landry figured to be a strong option. Without Gordon, Landry becomes the main guy, and must step into that role.

Without Gordon, the rest of the Browns' receiving cast after Landry includes Corey Coleman, Rashard Higgins, Jeff Janis, Ricardo Louis and rookies Antonio Callaway and Damion Ratley.

If that looks like a group crying out for a lead duo, so be it. Without Gordon, the Browns don't have an apparent solution at the other starting spot.

Coleman figures to be given the first chance, but the former first-round pick spent an offseason on the shakiest of ground with his team. Since Coleman was drafted, he has been plagued by injury and drops, including the one that ended the Browns' hopes of getting their only win in the final minutes of the finale in Pittsburgh.

In offseason workouts and minicamp, Coleman was the focus of frequent attention from offensive coordinator Todd Haley, who even pointedly called it a "make-or-break" year for Coleman in a minicamp-ending media appearance.

Higgins and Louis are two more holdovers from the four-receiver draft class of 2016. Louis was a major disappointment in 2017. Like Coleman, he also could be in camp on a make-or-break basis. Higgins had moments in 2017 and could emerge, but he has to show he can do it consistently.

Janis is a free-agent signee from Green Bay who had some big-play moments in a playoff game against Arizona, but is known more for his special-teams ability than his receiving. In four seasons, Janis has 17 receptions.

Callaway is a talented rookie who was sidelined through much of the offseason; he has a long way to go to learn the intricacies of the NFL game. Ditto for Ratley, a late-round pick.

Combine the numbers for the four returning veterans and they have 10 NFL seasons; in those they've averaged 15 catches, 187 yards and one touchdown per season.

In time this all may be moot. Gordon could well return refreshed and healthy in body and spirit. He would still have to prove he can return to his 1,646-yard form from 2013, but if he's on the field he gives the Browns a chance.

However, his availability, or lack thereof, is a major factor for the Browns, who have tried to rebuild a winless team in one offseason.

The Browns were relying on Gordon; if he again proves unreliable, they have a need that will be very difficult to fill.