NFL

NFL: What Does Josh Gordon’s Return Mean for the Patriots?

Josh Gordon has had a tumultuous career in the NFL. He is a talented wide receiver, but his various off-the-field issues have caused him to have some lengthy suspensions, most recently last December — three months after the Patriots acquired him in a trade with the Browns.

The league reinstated Gordon from that indefinite suspension in mid-August, and then he returned to practice later in the month, making him eligible to play in the Patriots’ season opener against the Steelers. What does Gordon’s return mean for the Patriots and their future Hall of Fame quarterback, Tom Brady?

Josh Gordon has talent

The Browns took a chance on Josh Gordon in the second round of the 2012 supplemental draft after his sophomore season at Baylor, when he had 42 catches for 714 yards and seven touchdowns.

When he’s on the field, Gordon is a good receiver. In 52 career games with the Browns and Patriots, he has 220 catches for 3,826 yards and 19 touchdowns. He is the active NFL leader with an average of 17.4 yards per reception, so he is a go-to option when a team needs a long reception. He was also the first NFL player to record at least 200 receiving yards in consecutive games.

Off-the-field issues

Josh Gordon’s trouble with the law began in college. In October 2010, he was suspended from Baylor’s team after police found marijuana in the car he was in, which belonged to a teammate. In July 2011, head coach Art Briles suspended Gordon indefinitely when he tested positive for marijuana.

He transferred to Utah the following month, but he sat out the 2011 season because he declared for the 2011 supplemental draft too late. In the NFL, he played in all 16 games in his rookie season in 2012 but faced a two-game suspension the following season for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy.

He then missed 10 games in 2014 while serving a suspension for a driving-while-impaired arrest that summer. Suspensions for further violations in the league’s policy and a stint in a rehab caused Gordon to sit out all of 2015 and 2016 and most of 2017, playing just five games. He then played in 12 games last season.

What Josh Gordon’s return mean for the Patriots

That brings us into the current season, and Josh Gordon has been reinstated by the league. Gordon saw some action in New England’s final preseason game, catching two balls for 30 yards.

As long as he can avoid any more suspensions and stay on the field, Gordon gives Brady and the Patriots a good downfield threat that defenses will have to plan for, helping to open up some more running room for the team’s running backs.

At 6’3″, Gordon also gives the Patriots a pretty big option in the red zone now that Rob Gronkowski has retired.  But his return to the team also means uncertainty for the Patriots. You never know when his next suspension will come down, as evidenced by the fact that he hasn’t played a full season since his rookie year.

The Patriots and, especially, Bill Belichick don’t like that kind of behavior, so any more issues for Gordon could mean his release from the defending champions.

Another talented-but-troubled receiver joins the team

Gordon isn’t the only receiver on the team who has issues. After demanding and receiving his release from the Raiders, Antonio Brown has signed a one-year deal with the Patriots.

He is one of the top receivers in the league, but in the last year has demanded his way out of Pittsburgh and Oakland, without even being on the latter’s roster for a regular-season game. Brown could serve as a mentor to Gordon on the field, but having the two on the same team may spell trouble for them, especially Gordon.