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Josh Gordon may end up an exclusive-rights free agent next year, too

Browns Revived Gordon Football

FILE - In this June 5, 2018, file photo, Cleveland Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon warms up during the team’s organized team activity at its NFL football training facility in Berea, Ohio. Gordon’s finding that this new route he’s running through life, a straight and sober one, is rewarding him every day. (AP Photo/Ron Schwane, File)


Browns receiver Josh Gordon entered the NFL via the supplemental draft more than six years ago. But he has yet to qualify for restricted free agency. Now, he’s only two days away from not qualifying for restricted free agency, again.

Because he’s on the reserve/did not report list, a failure by Gordon to report by August 7 will keep him from earning a year of credit toward free agency. Which will continue to keep him at only two years of credit toward free agency. And that will tie him to the Browns at least through 2019.

Gordon secured his two years of credit toward free agency in 2012 and 2013, his first two NFL seasons. In 2014, the NFL suspended Gordon 10 games under the substance-abuse policy. Then, the team suspended him for one game at the end of the season. That kept him at five games for the year, which kept him at two years of credit toward free agency.

Then came Gordon’s extended suspension, wiping out 2015. In 2016, Gordon entered rehab on the brink of a reinstatement that would have become effective in early October. Gordon eventually was reinstated during the 2017 season, but (coincidentally and perhaps conveniently) he played in only five games, keeping him once again at two years of credit.

In 2018, the number of games he plays won’t matter if he fails to report by Tuesday, August 7, 30 days before the launch of the regular season. Per Article 8, Section 1(b) of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, “A player shall not receive an Accrued Season for any League Year in which the player is under contract to a Club and in which he failed to report to such Club at least thirty days prior to the first regular season game of that season.”

The Browns originally announced that Gordon would be placed on the non-football illness list. Then the team reversed course, opting for reserve/did not report list. Which means he failed to report. Which means that if he doesn’t report at least 30 days before the September 6 regular-season opener between the Falcons and Eagles, he’ll once again be stuck at two years of service, even if he appears in all 16 regular-season games in 2018.

Which means that the Browns will be able to keep him in 2019, with no opportunity for Gordon to leave via restricted or unrestricted free agency.