Josh Gordon is going to need to find a new number.
Just like that, amid all of the Dez Bryant talk and worries of yet another earth-shattering September Patriots loss, New England went out and got Josh Gordon from Cleveland in exchange for a fifth round pick. There were rumors over the weekend that the Browns were going to straight-up cut Gordon, but instead managed to garner at least some compensation for him. The Patriots now have a very intriguing option at receiver who will finally be catching passes from a quarterback not named Brandon Weeden or Jason Campbell.
And while it’s easy to get excited by the prospect of Gordon in a Pats uniform, what is the team really getting? How much can we rationally expect from this guy? Are the Patriots immediately the clear-cut favorite to win the Super Bowl? Or will Gordon be out of football by Week 7? Only time will tell, but for now, here are my quick-hit thoughts on what Josh Gordon brings to the team.
Physical beast. Gordon is 6’3”, 225 pounds, and incredibly athletic. He has a 35 inch vertical and a 10-foot broad jump. He represents a physicality and skillset that the Patriots don’t really have on the roster. New England will enter into the month of October with Gordon, Edelman, Gronk, Dorsett, Hogan, and James White as viable receiving threats, and that’s a very solid offense. Even if Gordon doesn’t become the next Randy Moss (note: he most likely won’t, and that’s an odd comparison), he’s the kind of player that defenses have to account for, which should help draw double teams away from Gronk. It’s so rare for Tommy B to have receivers who are just athletic freaks, and the prospect of what Gordon has at his disposal is incredibly exciting.
Obvious question marks. Gordon has’t played a full season of football since 2013. He has looked solid in his very limited action since then, but the bottom line is he has basically been out of football for five years. He also seems completely incapable of staying off the drugs and alcohol, and is known to be a bit of a headcase. We also don’t know what his level of football IQ is; this isn’t an easy offense to learn, and if his brain is simply too clogged with malted hops and bong resin, he may join the ever-growing list of receivers brought onto the team mid-season who never quite figured it out. There are many unknowns right now that we need to balance against Gordon’s obvious physical talents as we temper expectations.
Excellent fit. This is what the Patriots are known for - they take troubled players that could never quite get their act together with other teams, and give them a length of rope. They can then use that rope to pull themselves up to superstardom (Randy Moss, Corey Dillon) or they can get themselves clotheslined by it (Adalius Thomas, Albert Haynesworth). Who knows if Gordon will fall into the former category or the latter, but that’s pretty irrelevant to be honest, as this move makes all the sense in the world. The Patriots need help at receiver, and Gordon has the potential to provide a huge boost, assuming he can pick up the playbook and keep his head straight. And if he can’t, that’s fine, because:
Zero risk. The Patriots are giving Cleveland their fifth round pick in exchange for an extremely talented player with high upside. If Gordon isn’t active for at least 10 games, the Browns have to send New England their seventh rounder. So in essence, the Patriots either get a phenomenal receiver for a fifth rounder, or they trade what is sure to be a late fifth round pick for a high seventh round pick, which is a deal you make all day. Maybe it’s repayment for giving Cleveland Jamie Collins for free. Maybe Cleveland was just desperate to get rid of Gordon. Maybe Belichick has been working as a double agent for years and has some sort of master plan. Whatever the case, the Patriots are getting a lot of talent for practically nothing, which means that even
Felger Shank the most ardent anti-Patriots folks are going to have a tough time spinning this one into a negative.