The team announced Saturday night that it intends to release the former Pro Bowl wide receiver, whose immense talent has been overshadowed by substance abuse that has derailed a promising career.
The stunning news came just hours after the Browns said Gordon would miss Sunday’s game in New Orleans with a hamstring injury. Gordon has been suspended by the NFL for most of the past four seasons because of multiple drug violations, and the Browns have been supportive of him for years as he tried to get his life together.
“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. “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.”
The Browns provided no details behind their decision to part ways with Gordon, but a source told ESPN’s Chris Mortensen that Gordon broke the team’s “trust” when he reported to the facility with a hamstring issue after being a full participant in practice all week.
The source said there were other “mitigating factors” inclusive of present and past incidents.
The Browns declared Gordon out with a hamstring injury earlier in the day and left him in Cleveland before the team departed for New Orleans to play the Saints on Sunday.
A source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter that Gordon hurt his hamstring at a promotional shoot, not at practice.
Gordon, 27, missed three weeks of training camp this summer to undergo counseling and treatment, and he recently said he was in a good place mentally and physically.
He played in last week’s season opener against Pittsburgh, his first appearance in a Week 1 game since 2012, when he was a rookie.
Gordon was expected to have an expanded role this week against the Saints after being targeted just three times in a tie against Pittsburgh. He caught a game-tying, 17-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter against the Steelers, but was mostly used as a decoy.
Gordon started the opener despite coach Hue Jackson saying he wouldn’t be on the field for the first snap as punishment for missing camp. Jackson blamed Gordon’s appearance on the first play to a “mistake” and “miscommunication.”
Jackson refused to elaborate on the situation this week, saying he and the coaching staff wanted to “move on.”
A source told Schefter that teams already are calling the Browns, who are likely to trade Gordon before he is released. Gordon is a vested veteran and is not subject to waivers. If he is cut by the Browns, he will become a free agent.
Gordon emerged as one of pro football’s most dynamic players in 2013, when he led the league with 1,646 yards receiving and scored nine touchdowns. Gordon was suspended for the entire 2015 and 2016 seasons.
He sat out the first 11 games last year before returning for Cleveland’s final five games.
The Browns selected Gordon in the 2012 supplemental draft despite his background of drug use in college.
Cleveland also brought in free-agent Dez Bryant for a visit last month during training camp, but the two sides failed to reach a deal.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.