Despite Risks, San Francisco 49ers Need to Make a Move for Josh Gordon

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COMMENTARY | Marlon Moore was one of the San Francisco 49ers starting wide receivers Week 1 against the Green Bay Packers. A short three weeks later he was a healthy inactive against the St. Louis Rams. Maybe some of this had to do with his inability to actually catch the football when on the field, but it could have more to do with the 49ers expecting too much from the journeyman wide receiver. After all, he's caught a total of 13 passes in parts of four seasons. Moore brought in one single catch on three targets in the three games that he was active.

A key injury to one of the most talented receivers in the NFL in the form of Michael Crabtree forced San Francisco's hand here. That coupled with the bust that was A.J. Jenkins and a late-season injury to Mario Manningham last year put the 49ers in a less-than-enviable position.

Here is their chance to right a wrong.

Josh Gordon declared for the 2012 supplemental draft after being suspended by Baylor's football team for violation of team rules. Long considered a top prospect, Gordon was nabbed by the Cleveland Browns in the second round of the lesser-known annual draft. Despite a late start to the offseason program (draft was conducted in mid July) Gordon put up a team-high 805 receiving yards and brought down five scores. The 6'3", 225 pound wide receiver has the size to match up with some of the NFL's larger corners, but also possesses the speed to beat defenses over the top. He averaged 16.1 yards per reception as a rookie in 2012. One of the most common comparisons that experts have drawn to Gordon is Houston Texans star Andre Johnson.

Despite what has to be considered a stellar rookie season, Gordon made the headlines for all the wrong reasons in his first full offseason in the NFL. He was suspended for the first two games of this season for violating the NFL's substance-abuse policy. Gordon's issues seem to be with marijuana. He was arrested on marijuana charges while at Baylor and failed a drug test after transferring to Utah prior to the 2011 season, the end result being him not being able to suit up for the Utes. These off-field concerns seem to have some teams worried at this point, as ESPN reported last month.

After serving his two-game suspension, Gordon returned to form on the field. In his first action of the season Week 3 against the Minnesota Vikings, the up-and-coming receiver netted 10 receptions for 146 yards and one score. Interestingly enough, it came in Cleveland's first win of the season with Brian Hoyer making his first start in a Browns uniform. Gordon then hauled in four receptions for 71 yards last week in another winning effort against the Cincinnati Bengals.

It's not a secret that Gordon is currently on the trade block. New Browns' management doesn't seem to agree with the decision of the previous regime to select Gordon in the second round of the supplemental draft last July, which caused them to forfeit a same-round pick in April's draft. Cleveland is also fresh off dealing former top-five pick Trent Richardson to the Indianapolis Colts for a first-round pick in the 2014 draft. Needless to say, it's in the process of completely rebuilding what has been a struggling roster.

The issue here is that Cleveland will be looking for good compensation should it make the decision to move Gordon. A starting off point could likely be the second rounder it surrendered by selecting Gordon last year.

San Francisco is in position to pay that bounty. It's going to pick up multiple mid-round compensatory selections after losing the likes of Dashon Goldson and Delanie Walker, among others in free agency. NFL rules indicate that teams who lose more free agents of a certain caliber than they sign will be awarded what are called compensatory picks. San Francisco used one of these picks to select running back Marcus Lattimore in the fourth round of April's draft.

The 49ers also have an additional third-round pick coming from the Tennessee Titans, a pick they acquired by trading down a few slots in the second round of the 2013 NFL draft. This doesn't even take into account a likely second-round pick that will be coming San Francisco's way from the Kansas City Chiefs in the Alex Smith deal.

You get the picture. General manager Trent Baalke has a lot to work with here. Assuming San Francisco was going to spend a rather high-round pick on a wide receiver, which seems to be pretty much etched in stone at this point, why not trade for Gordon? Sure the off-field risks are there, but he would add another dimension to an offensive attack that is void of that.

Some may call into question where Gordon fits once Crabtree returns from injury. With Boldin, Crabtree and Gordon in the mix, San Francisco would then have three starter-caliber receivers. Add into the equation Vernon Davis at tight end and there might not be enough balls to go around. That's a valid argument on the surface, but it's also a nice problem to have. Sure beats the heck out of the 49ers' current situation. It's also important to note that Boldin will become a free agent and that there is an option on Crabtree's deal that could void the remainder of his deal after the season.

Baalke has done an amazing job building a roster with an eye to the future. Adding Gordon to the mix wouldn't only help the team this season, it would give the 49ers an enormous amount of options at wide receiver moving forward. This trade just makes too much sense not to happen. Let's see if Baalke's out-of-the-box approach pays off in a blockbuster move this month.

Vincent Frank has been covering the National Football League for three years. He started out writing for Niners Nation and was a featured columnist at Bleacher Report. His work has been published on CNN, Pro Football Focus and BR, among other sites.

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