If I’m the Browns I’m asking for an exemption based on an actual football injury. If Josh Gordon breaks a leg and is out for 6 weeks but is a model citizen otherwise, that shouldn’t trigger the returned pick clause.
Best case scenario: He flourishes as a redemption story, becoming the big play threat that opens things up for all the other weapons, and does it (like Cooks last year) for very low money. Then the Pats re-sign him for low money relative to what his talent would dictate without the suspension history.
Good case scenario: He fits in with the receivers, contributes to the season at low money, then leaves in free agency.
Bad case scenario: It doesn’t work out, and it costs the team a fifth for a high-reward, low-risk flier.
Worst case scenario: It works out well, he becomes a reliable member of the offense, then does something to get himself suspended again on the eve of a big game.
The contract and the low compensation make the risk worthwhile to take. It’s only the specter of a potentially looming suspension (coupled with my paranoia about how low the league’s willing to sink in order to screw the Patriots) that causes concern. Where does Gordon stand in the substance abuse program?