According to Pro Football Talk the Browns have suspended wide receiver Josh Gordon for the final game of the season for violating team rules. Call me Oliver Stone, but this suspension reeks of an attempt by the Browns to circumvent the rules regarding free agency and eventually block Gordon’s free agent status following the 2015 season.
NFL rules state that a player must be on a paid roster status for a minimum of 6 games in a season in order to earn an accrued season towards free agency. A player needs four accrued seasons to become a free agent. When Gordon was suspended for the season this year for substance abuse violations it was going to block his free agent status in 2016, as he would instead be a restricted free agent. Eventually the NFL and NFLPA modified the drug policies and Gordon’s suspension was reduced from the season to 10 games. The 10 games was a likely compromise to give him the maxmimum punishment possible without harming his free agent status.
The Browns got almost nothing out of Gordon this year since by the time he returned to the lineup the team was beginning to struggle and would soon fall out of the playoff race. I have a hard time believing the Browns were still in the race that they would have made this move. This was most likely all about a wasted year and them looking to protect an asset that has missed multiple games in his career due to substance abuse problems. A player like Gordon might fetch between $8 and $10 million a year in free agency, potentially more depending on how the market increases this offseason. Now they will controll him in 2016 for around $3 million.
Now this is all assuming that he will be actually suspended without pay and not just simply deactivated for the game. There is a difference as deactivation is still a player on the regular roster in good standing with the team. But if the Browns are actually suspending him they will need significant evidence that Gordon truly did something to merit punishment from the 0rganization. I would think the NFLPA will be filing a grievance over this immediately.
Jason is the founder of OTC and has been studying NFL contracts and the salary cap for over 15 years. Jason has co-authored two books about the NFL, Crunching Numbers and the Drafting Stage, which are widely circulated in the industry and hosts the OTC Podcast. Jason’s work has been featured in various publications including the Sporting News, Sports Illustrated, NFL Network and more. OTC is widely considered the leading authority on contract matters in the NFL.