TAMPA, FLA.: Browns head of football operations Sashi Brown said Thursday the franchise isn’t looking to trade former All-Pro wide receiver Josh Gordon, but he also conceded Gordon has a price tag like virtually every player in the NFL.
NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo reported Friday the Browns’ price for Gordon when other teams inquired about him recently was a second-round draft pick and more.
“I don’t think they’re going to wind up dealing Gordon. I don’t. They’re not shopping him,” Garafolo said on the network. “But they did have conversations with teams, and I was told that their price for Gordon was a second-round pick and then some.”
If true, the price would be the same as it was three years ago. And it would almost certainly be too steep for any team to pay at this point, given Gordon’s off-field history.
In 2013, former Browns CEO Joe Banner received a trade offer from the San Francisco 49ers of a second-round selection and a player. But the Browns never executed the deal after former coach Rob Chudzinski vehemently protested it, and owner Jimmy Haslam ultimately vetoed Banner.
Gordon is immensely talented, as evidenced by his NFL-leading 1,646 receiving yards in 2013. But he also has been suspended for 27 of the past 32 games because of recurring violations of the league’s substance-abuse policy, and he’ll begin the upcoming regular season by serving another four-game ban.
Still, Brown insisted Gordon is doing well off the field, he’s considered a dynamic piece of the offense and the organization isn’t interested in trading him.
ESPN reported earlier this week multiple teams inquired about the availability of Gordon.
“Listening [to trade offers] is probably a mischaracterization,” Brown said Thursday. “We’ve said all we needed to say about it. We’re not looking to trade Josh.”
Monitoring the lineup
As expected, Gordon (quadriceps), fellow wide receivers Corey Coleman (hamstring) and Andrew Hawkins (hamstring), cornerback Joe Haden (ankle surgery March 16) and defensive lineman John Hughes (missed two weeks of training camp for a personal reason) made their preseason debuts Friday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after sitting out the first two exhibition games.
So it was the first time the promising receiving group of Gordon, Coleman and Terrelle Pryor appeared together in a game.
Meanwhile, starting center Cameron Erving played despite suffering a sprained ankle earlier this week when the Browns and Bucs held joint practices. He left Wednesday’s session early with an athletic trainer.
Erving, the 19th overall pick in last year’s draft, has had issues with shotgun snaps and some problems with pass protection this preseason, but Brown gave him a vote of confidence Thursday and said the team plans to stick with him as its starting center.
“As far as I know, that’s certainly the plan,” Brown said. “I think he’s shown some good things, and it’s a young, developing player that will need some time. But we’ve been pleased with his body of work. There are some things like all our players he can clean up, but there’s some good signs there.”
Players suffer injuries
Cornerback Justin Gilbert left the game with 4:30 left in the second quarter and didn’t return. He was diagnosed with a concussion. Charles Gaines replaced him.
Gilbert had a concussion last season against the Baltimore Ravens on Nov. 30. He missed the next two games. Wide receiver Marlon Moore was also knocked out of the game in the first half with a hip injury.
Defensive end Nick Hayden (knee) and backup running back Raheem Mostert (hamstring) were the surprises among the Browns players who sat out. Hayden had been practicing as the starting left defensive end since Hughes’ hiatus began. Mostert is the primary kickoff returner.
They got their injuries in Wednesday’s practice. Hayden’s knee injury is not believed to be severe.
The other sidelined Browns players were cornerbacks Tramon Williams (toe) and Trey Caldwell (hamstring), wide receiver Ricardo Louis (hamstring), running back Glenn Winston (shoulder) and defensive lineman Nile Lawrence-Stample (shoulder).
The following Bucs players sat out: wide receivers Louis Murphy and Evan Spencer, running back Mike James, linebackers Daryl Smith and Devante Bond, offensive linemen Kevin Pamphile, J.R. Sweezy and Ali Marpet, tight end Luke Stocker and defensive tackle Clinton McDonald.
Exile more veterans?
The Browns are in the midst of an aggressive youth movement, so questions have arisen about whether they’ll cut Williams, 33, and trade backup quarterback Josh McCown, 37.
Williams, who left Wednesday’s practice early with an injured toe, is scheduled to make $6.2 million in 2016 after signing a three-year, $21 million contract with the Browns last season. But would the Browns keep him at that salary if he’s not starting? Jamar Taylor has recently been working in place of Williams opposite Joe Haden.
“I think you can never have enough corners, first, I would say, and Tramon’s been a great pro for us,” Brown said Thursday. “There’s no reason that we would have to cut Tramon for salary purposes is the easiest way I can answer that. Guys haven’t set the depth chart for Week 1. He’s a savvy veteran that’s come in and worked hard, played well, helped a lot of the young guys along as well. We do value him.”
The Browns haven’t traded McCown despite the Dallas Cowboys expressing interest in dealing for him a few weeks ago. Brown was asked if the team intends to keep McCown.
“We do value our veterans and the impact they can have certainly on the on-field performance and their productivity, but also in establishing the culture and buying into our program and showing our young guys how to become professionals in this league, which is not an easy task,” Brown said. “So we value Josh for a lot of different reasons, but we also do feel as a quarterback, he’s a viable, starting-caliber NFL QB.”
Nate Ulrich can be reached at email@example.com. Read the Browns blog at www.ohio.com/browns. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/NateUlrichABJ.