NEW ORLEANS — The Browns reached their breaking point with troubled receiver Josh Gordon on Saturday.
Hours after saying Gordon wouldn’t play Sunday against the Saints because of a mysterious hamstring injury, the organization announced it will release him Monday.
He could be traded if general manager John Dorsey gets an offer he deems worthy. Either way, the move will end a tumultuous relationship that began in 2012, spanned five Browns regimes and had endured through a series of suspensions for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy.
“This afternoon we informed Josh Gordon and his representatives that we are going to release him on Monday,” Dorsey said in a statement. “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.”
Saturday night, Gordon added to his Instagram story, saying, “Huge S/O to the city of Cleveland, this place will always feel like home to me .. I’m extremely honored and blessed to have been able to grow up and start a life amongst such a passionate and motivated group of individuals .. It’s been a hell of a journey with you guys and I wish all of you nothing but the best .. Thanks for the @ClevelandBrowns organization for having me, I’ll never forget my time here.
“Same book, next chapter..
“P.S. Anyone need a deep-threat WR?”
Gordon, 27, has dealt with addiction issues for years and has made several trips to rehabilitation facilities. He missed the first three weeks of training camp to work on his sobriety and mental health.
The Browns welcomed him back with strict guidelines. The unusual events of Saturday and concerns about Gordon’s behavior were enough for the organization to further lose trust and determine he was no longer worth the trouble.
Gordon played 69 snaps in the opening tie vs. Pittsburgh, said Wednesday he felt great and practiced all week. He wasn’t listed on the official injury report until Saturday, when he arrived late to the team facility and complained about his hamstring, according to a team spokesman.
Gordon was checked by the athletic training staff and it was determined he wouldn’t play, the spokesman said. ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported Gordon hurt the hamstring at a promotional shoot, citing a source.
After the team arrived here, a meeting was held and the decision made to cut him loose.
Gordon attended the Lorain High School game Friday night as the Titans played for the first time on a turf field provided by the Browns.
Gordon’s legacy in Cleveland will be one of unrealized potential.
He was chosen in the second round of the 2012 supplemental draft. At 6-foot-3, 225 pounds with sprinter’s speed and natural hands, Gordon’s as talented as any receiver in the league.
He proved that in 2013, when he led the league with a franchise-record 1,646 receiving yards in just 14 games — after serving the first of his many suspensions. He caught 87 passes and nine touchdowns, and became the only player in NFL history with back-to-back 200-yard receiving games. He made first-team All-Pro.
He never was on the field long enough to duplicate or build on that success.
He missed the first 10 games of 2014 on a drug suspension, played five games, then didn’t play again until the final five games of 2017. He missed 43 straight games and 54 of 64 from 2014-17.
The Browns hoped things were different this time. Gordon finished last season, then spent the entire offseason program with the team before leaving town before the start of camp. But he was back in time to play in his first opener since he was a rookie.
He caught one pass, an acrobatic 17-yard touchdown he picked off the helmet of Steelers cornerback Cameron Sutton.
A focus of this week was continuing to develop chemistry between quarterback Tyrod Taylor and Gordon, who was expected to be a bigger part of the game plan against the Saints. Instead, the Browns are again adjusting to life without Gordon.
This time, it’s permanent.
The loss of Gordon is a serious blow to a passing game that struggled against the Steelers. Taylor was 15-for-40 for 197 yards, a touchdown, an interception, seven sacks and a 51.8 rating.
Rookie Antonio Callaway is expected to start in his place. Callaway, a fourth-round pick, played 15 snaps against the Steelers and didn’t have a catch on one target.
Rashard Higgins will likely see more time, too, and possibly rookies Damion Ratley and Derrick Willies.
KIRKSEY, DEVALVE OUT
Linebacker Christian Kirksey (ankle) and tight end Seth DeValve (hamstring) were also ruled out. Kirksey had been listed as questionable, and DeValve was added to the injury report Saturday.
They also didn’t travel. Kirksey will miss his first game since being drafted in 2014, a stretch of 65 games. The Browns have a quick turnaround, playing again Thursday night at home against the Jets.
James Burgess is expected to start in place of Kirksey.
DeValve missed all of the preseason with a quadriceps injury but played in the opener.