The NFL is conditionally reinstating Patriots wide receiver Josh Gordon following his indefinite suspension, the league announced. According to Jeremy Bergman of NFL.com, Gordon will be permitted to participate in team activities on Sunday should the league find his clinical care and personal arrangements to be effective enough.
Gordon was suspended for violating the league’s substance abuse policy last December. He announced shortly before that he was stepping away from the game to focus on his mental health.
Gordon is set to make $2.025 million on a 1-year contract with New England this season. The organization extended the tender back in March, which Gordon didn’t sign until now due to his suspension and absence from team activities.
His original rookie deal with Cleveland was signed in 2012 for four years, $5.3 million. The Browns traded him away last fall for a conditional fifth-round pick.
The 28-year-old experienced a rebound with New England in 2018. He caught 40 passes for 720 yards and three touchdowns. This was his best productions since racking up 87 catches for 1,646 yards and nine scores in 2013. However, he was suspended in December for the rest of the regular season and playoffs for yet another substance abuse violation.
“We support Josh Gordon in his continued efforts to focus on his health,” the Patriots released in a statement back on Dec. 20. “His attempt to do so is a private and personal matter, which we intend to respect.”
Gordon was drafted in the second round of the 2012 NFL Supplemental Draft out of Baylor. He recorded 50 catches, 805 yards, and five touchdowns in the 2012 season before breaking out the following season.
He started falling by the wayside with his first substance abuse violation in 2014. After a 10-game suspension that year, he was slapped with a full-season one for another violation in 2015. He was reinstated four games into the 2016 season, but took a leave of absence to go to an in-patient rehabilitation center.
Patriots WR Outlook for 2019
Gordon’s conditional reinstatement changes the game for New England’s wide receiver corps. With his absence, Tom Brady would have been forced to throw to Julian Edelman as an outside target (rather than his more natural position in the slot).
Gordon was on pace for about 1,000 yards before his suspension last season. In addition, Edelman led the team with 74 receptions for 850 yards, adding six touchdowns. Between those two, New England has a very solid inside-outside duo (including the Super Bowl LIII in Edelman).
The key is finding the second outside receiver, which is currently a battle between Phillip Dorsett and Demaryius Thomas. Dorsett was more productive last season, but only stands 5-foot-10. His 32 catches for 290 yards and three touchdowns were solid, but again, his size deserves to put him in the slot.
Thomas, meanwhile, is a 6-foot-3 speedster than once recorded a 4.38 in the 40-yard dash. That athleticism hasn’t translated in the last two seasons, including 2018 with the Texans. The 31-year-old chipped in 23 receptions for 275 yards and just two scores for Houston.
In his ideal playing form, Thomas would complement well with Gordon. Should he and/or Dorsett not be up to snuff, expect Brady to distribute the ball to the likes of James White out of the backfield or Ben Watson at tight end.
Otherwise, young talents such as Braxton Berrios and 2019 first-round pick N’Keal Harry are waiting in the wings. Harry, in particular, is a great insurance policy at outside receiver, as he’s a 6-foot-4, 230-pound jumbo target with decent 4.53 speed in the 40.