In a winless season filled with highs and lows, perhaps one of the best things that happened to the Browns in 2017 was the return of Josh Gordon.
The former Pro Bowl wide receiver re-joined the team after a lengthy suspension and immediately showed why he was once one of the NFL's most electrifying players.
Now, as the Browns turn the page toward the offseason, they believe Gordon will play a major role in the team's future.
"I do because he hasn't done anything to justify anything else other than that since he has been back," coach Hue Jackson said Monday. "He has worked extremely hard on the field. He has worked extremely hard off the field. He is a very talented player. Now, he has to continue to do the right thing as the offseason comes. Here comes the next phase for him so he needs to go handle that the right way once he leaves here."
Gordon, who led the league in receiving in 2013, was reinstated in November by commissioner Roger Goodell following an almost three-year hiatus for multiple violations of the league's substance abuse policy. Upon his return, Gordon had an immediate impact on a struggling Cleveland offense, catching 18 passes for 335 yards and a touchdown. In Sunday's loss to the Steelers, he had his first 100-yard receiving game (four catches, 115 yards) since Nov. 20, 2014.
"His work ethic and his mindset was awesome in these last few weeks that we were able to have him," rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer said. "He will become the leader that we need him to be in that room with the young receiving corps that we have … We're going to have to rely on him to continue to develop some of the other guys and make sure that he holds them to the same standards that he holds himself."
Gordon was a bright spot in an underwhelming position group that struggled throughout the season.
Jackson believes the receiver will continue a promising comeback in 2018.
"I do expect Josh Gordon to be a contributing member of this football team," he said, "come back and get ready for the offseason and the season."