The Cleveland Browns announced Monday they traded wide receiver Josh Gordon and a conditional 2019 seventh-round draft pick to the New England Patriots in exchange for a 2019 conditional fifth-rounder.
The Browns made it public over the weekend they were planning to release him after the sides reached a point where the team said it was best to move their separate ways.
"This afternoon we informed Josh Gordon and his representatives that we are going to release him on Monday," general manager John Dorsey said in a statement released Saturday. "For the past six years, the Browns have fully supported and invested in Josh, both personally and professionally, and wanted the best for him, but unfortunately we've reached a point where we feel it's best to part ways and move forward. We wish Josh well."
After initially saying they would release him, the Browns shifted to exploring trade options for Gordon.
The final straw for Cleveland came by way of Gordon injuring his hamstring at a promotional photo shoot, per Rapoport.
Selected in the second round of the 2012 supplemental draft, Gordon has proven to be an exceptional talent -- when he's on the field. Availability has been Gordon's biggest issue, with the receiver missing all of 2015 and 2016 due to suspension and returning for the final five games of 2017. Of 98 possible games (counting each game from Cleveland's 16-game regular-season slates from 2012-2017 and the first two contests of 2018), Gordon has appeared in just 41.
As a result, typing "six seasons with the Browns" in reference to Gordon isn't entirely accurate. Cleveland has stuck with the receiver through multiple violations of the league's Policy and Program for Substances of Abuse, offering support when possible through each violation, even as they resulted in extended absences. After finishing the 2017 season healthy, Gordon missed 2018's training camp to ensure his health and wellness, and the Browns again supported Gordon, welcoming him back in the final two weeks of the preseason.
The receiver has admitted in personal pieces published by various outlets that he's struggled with substance abuse since he was in middle school, and that he never played a game sober prior to his 2017 return.
Seemingly in a better place, Gordon returned to the field in Week 1 and caught a game-tying touchdown in Cleveland's eventual tie with the Pittsburgh Steelers. But just days later, things turned toward separation between the Browns and Gordon, who thanked the organization via an Instagram post.
Now, back to the football part of this story: Gordon has shown himself to be a rare talent, leading the NFL in receiving in 2013 with 1,646 yards and nine touchdowns despite only appearing in 14 games. He's since found the end zone just twice in the ensuing five seasons.
His catch against Pittsburgh in a steady rain proved, though, why Cleveland stuck by him for so long. It's also why a good amount of teams were interested in Gordon when news of his availability became public.
New England has attempted this type of deal before, bringing in a variety of receivers who found success elsewhere (Chad Johnson, Kenny Britt, Brandon Lloyd, Michael Floyd, etc.). Gordon is on a different tier than those wideouts, though, and is worth the risk as long as he can stay on the field.