Trading Gordon isn’t a surprising move for the Browns after the team announced two days ago that he would be released come Monday. His tenure with Cleveland was rocky, but finally beginning to get back on track after Gordon spent two years away from football. That reportedly came undone because Gordon suffered a surprise hamstring injury filming a “hype video” before Week 2 and was late to the facility the day before the team’s second game of the year. The Browns ran out of patience.
The trade similarly isn’t a surprise for the Patriots, considering the team’s difficulty at wide receiver. New England could’ve waited for the Browns to release Gordon, but there would’ve been a bidding war if the receiver hit the open market. By trading for him, the Patriots inherit Gordon’s cheap $700,000 salary, and beat out other teams who were also willing to trade for the receiver.
That list reportedly included a few NFC teams the Browns considered first.
Browns also spoke with Cowboys, Redskins, 49ers and others about a potential trade for Josh Gordon, and wanted to send him to NFC. But Patriots stepped in and closed.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) September 17, 2018
It was increasingly unlikely that Gordon was ever going to become a free agent this week. In New England, Gordon will bolster a team that is a perennial contender.
How does Gordon fit?
In the Patriots’ 31-20 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars, wide receivers accounted for just 104 collective yards. Tom Brady’s leading receiver on the day was running back James White, who caught seven passes for 73 yards.
Poor play at wide receiver was a problem the Patriots likely saw coming from a mile away. After trading away Brandin Cooks and losing Danny Amendola in free agency, the team has played a game of musical chairs at the position.
Eric Decker, Kenny Britt, Jordan Matthews, and Malcolm Mitchell were all on the Patriots at some point during training camp and preseason, but none are with the team anymore.
Brady is currently relying on Chris Hogan, Phillip Dorsett, and Cordarrelle Patterson until Julian Edelman returns from a four-game suspension. But that corps isn’t cutting it.
Not only are the receivers not producing, but it’s making it easy for defenses to lock down Rob Gronkowski, who caught just two passes for 15 yards against the Jaguars.
The Patriots could easily use Josh Gordon. They have a big need at WR and can’t let Gronk continue to be doubled when they play great defenses.— Geoff Schwartz (@geoffschwartz) September 17, 2018
In Gordon, the Patriots get the kind of deep-threat receiver that has helped Brady play at his best. The peak of Brady’s Hall of Fame career came in 2007 when he threw 50 touchdowns — 23 of which were caught by Randy Moss, maybe the best ever at tracking deep balls.
Does Brady, at age 41, still have what it takes to take advantage of a player who can take the top off the defense? We’ll just have to see, but Brady was cautiously optimistic:
Tom Brady to @westwood1sports (on Josh Gordon): "I hate to make projections and expectations. That’s not fair. I’ve never met Josh personally ... Hopefully he can work hard and put the team first, and end up helping us in any role that he can find for himself on the team.”— Mike Reiss (@MikeReiss) September 18, 2018
Is this a move the Patriots would normally make?
You’ve probably heard all about “The Patriot Way” and the team’s no-nonsense, somewhat miserable approach to football. But that hasn’t meant a cast of choir boys in New England.
Gordon, 27, was suspended in college at Baylor for a failed drug test and transferred to Utah, but never played for the team. After a quick start to his NFL career in Cleveland, he was suspended 10 games in 2014 for violation of the league’s substance-abuse policy and then all of the 2015 season.
He was reinstated in 2016, but announced just prior to his season debut that he’d enter an in-patient rehab facility. Gordon didn’t return to the Browns until December 2017, nearly three years after his last game.
One more transgression would likely mean the end of his NFL career.
The Patriots have a rigid code that players are expected to adhere to, and the team has no problem parting ways with anyone who steps out of line. That modus operandi has allowed the team to take risks on plenty of players who are considered character risks or headaches.
Moss was just one of those players, along with Albert Haynesworth, Aqib Talib, and Chad Ochocinco. Sometimes it works out, and when it doesn’t, the Patriots cut ties.
So it’s not surprising that the Patriots feel comfortable rolling the dice on Gordon.
Are the Patriots feeling a little desperate?
Maybe, but what’s wrong with that?
Brady is 41 and they only have a finite amount of time to go after another ring. Clearly the receiving corps is an issue and the Browns offered the Patriots an opportunity to add a ridiculously talented player at the position, someone who could contribute as soon as Sunday night:
New #Patriots WR Josh Gordon had an MRI on his hamstring and I’m told it came out fine. That means… Gordon could play for New England in Week 3.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) September 17, 2018
The bigger concern for the Patriots is probably the fact that the team’s defense was just shredded by Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles for 377 yards and four touchdowns. But scoring a lot of points can help a defense out, and if Gordon realizes his potential with the Patriots, the trade will be well worth the cost.