Josh Gordon's absence won't affect free agency status

It remains unclear when Josh Gordon will return to the Cleveland Browns, but the team isn't going to use his looming free agency eligibility as a motivator to rush him back.

If Gordon doesn't report to Browns training camp by Tuesday, he'll technically become an exclusive rights free agent when the new league year begins in March 2019, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported. Players need to report to their teams 30 days before the start of the season in order to receive credit for an accrued season.

However, a Browns source told Rapoport they've made it clear to Gordon they don't plan to hold him to that Tuesday deadline. They want him to focus on his health and well-being and not feel compelled to rush back in order to remain eligible for unrestricted free agency after 2019, provided he plays the next two seasons.

Gordon announced last month he would not attend the start of camp in order to focus on his health and well-being. Gordon was reinstated by the league last year after being suspended for violating the NFL Policy and Program for Substances of Abuse in February 2015.

Since entering the league in 2012 as a Browns supplemental draft pick, Gordon's career has been mired with multiple suspensions for violations of the substance-abuse policy. He did not play in 2015 and 2016 before returning in November 2017 on a conditional reinstatement. In 40 career games, Gordon has 179 catches for 3,089 yards and 15 touchdowns.

Despite his most recent setback, Browns general manager John Dorsey has expressed confidence in Gordon returning to the team before the start of the season.

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