Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots have sacrificed off-the-field issues for immense talent time and time again. In 2007, the Patriots traded for Randy Moss, who was undoubtedly one of the top receivers in the NFL at that time. However, Moss could not stay out of the news in his early career for outlandish behavior such as squirting an official with a water bottle, verbally abusing team sponsors, admitting to marijuana use, etc.
In a similar scenario this season, the Patriots brought in star wide receiver Antonio Brown, whose tenure in New England lasted merely a week and was riddled with media backlash, as sexual assault allegations became public shortly after his signing.
In 2010, the Patriots drafted a player who, according to a scouting service that provided psychological profiles on every prospect, was described as “living on the edge of acceptable behavior” and that the player could become a “problem” for any team that signs him. That player is Aaron Hernandez, who was convicted for first degree murder in 2013.
However, the most interesting case where the Patriots have opened their doors to a struggling pass catcher involves the oft-inactive Josh Gordon. Before joining the Patriots, Gordon led the league in receiving yards, exceeding 1,600 while scoring nine touchdowns in his 2013 season with the Cleveland Browns. But the wide receiver only managed to play 11 more games in Cleveland over the following three years as his substance abuse issues led to a suspension for the entire 2015 season.
After being reinstated by the NFL, Bill Belichick brought him to Foxborogh. Gordon, who only played 17 games in his two years in New England, reached 60 catches, over 1,000 yards receiving, and four touchdowns, including reeling in Tom Brady’s 500th career touchdown pass. Gordon’s time in New England appears to be coming to a close as the Patriots have placed him on injured reserve (IR) to make room for former Bengals and Falcons wide receiver Mohamed Sanu. This news came as a surprise to many, including Josh Gordon himself (see @flash in the comments below).
Gordon has struggled with a knee injury this season and re-aggravated it during the Patriots Week 6 win over the New York Giants. Gordon was making strides in his recovery, as he was on the practice field working out just hours before the Patriots announced his placement on the IR.
The Patriots likely placed Gordon on the IR rather than release him now, so they can wait until the trade deadline passes on Tuesday. Releasing him after the deadline passes means Gordon would have to pass through waivers rather than immediately becoming a free agent. This would ensure that Gordon is unable to sign with a top contender in the league, rather one of the teams at the bottom of the league because the priority of claims is the reverse order of the league standings.
Josh Gordon’s future in the NFL will be determined in the coming weeks, but one thing is for sure: his time with the Patriots is long over. It looks like the Patriots’ skilled position experiments started hot with Randy Moss, but since then, all have fallen flat.