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Recent troubles remind Browns need Justin Gilbert to pan out

CLEVELAND -- Josh Gordon's year-long suspension and Johnny Manziel's boiling point that prompted his recent entrance into treatment amplifies the Browns' need for Justin Gilbert to work out in Cleveland.

At least Gilbert, who as a rookie failed to maximize his enormous potential as a No. 8 overall pick, has stayed out of the headlines recently. He's been fairly inactive on social media since the season ended.

For as crucial as this offseason is for Manziel, it's equally so for Gilbert, who struggled mightily transitioning to NFL life as a rookie.

If Gilbert takes Donte Whitner's advice to "grow up" in the offseason, this would be welcome news for a franchise marred by perceived incompetence in the front office in the past month.

Among the three Browns' rookies that struggled with maturity issues in 2014 (Manziel, Gilbert, Terrance West), Gilbert might have been the most problematic when it came to timeliness. One source said Gilbert was either late for or absent from multiple team activities during the season, including a missed meeting on the final week that prompted his suspension in Week 17 at Baltimore.

A running theme from the Browns this past season was that Gilbert's transition from the defensive scheme at Oklahoma State to the Browns' technique-heavy, press-man system would be a difficult one. When coupled with lack of preparation, that transition stood no chance.

While Manziel's recovery from treatment and his lackluster rookie season could force the Browns to move on at quarterback, the Browns will likely give Gilbert at least another year to figure it out. Buster Skrine has created a competitive free-agency market. He might not return to Cleveland. If he goes, that leaves Joe Haden on the outside, K'Waun Williams in the slot, Gilbert and fourth-round pick Pierre Desir. To make that quartet work, the Browns would need more from Gilbert than they got a season ago.

Ray Farmer's debut rookie class depends on it.