Yes, Gordon is suspended. That label next to his name at the very top of the free-agency pool is no lie. But according to Michael David Smith of NBCSports.com, sweeping changes to the NFL's drug testing policy might see Gordon's suspension reduced:
Another change is that the threshold to trigger a positive result on a marijuana test would rise. That would affect Gordon because his positive marijuana test was just barely above the NFL’s current threshold for a positive, which is significantly lower than the threshold for other organizations like the World Anti-Doping Agency.
Two sources later confirmed to Cleveland.com's Mary Kay Cabot that Gordon might be eligible for reinstatement, and she transcribed an interview NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith gave on 106.7 The Fan in Washington in which he stated it should not be the player's fault that a deal took so long:
"If we get a deal done that covers players in this league year, I don't like that we punish players under a deal active in the old league year," Smith said Friday. "We don't want players to suffer because the union and the league couldn't get it done before the league year.''
Regardless of whether this new agreement sees ink put to paper any time soon, and regardless of whether the league then turns around and retroactively applies it to players who have been suspended this year, Gordon must now be rostered in any and all leagues.
Last year's fantasy points leader, better than even Calvin Johnson and Demaryius Thomas, went for double-digit production in 10 contests and at one point did so six straight times, not to mention his four outbursts of more than 20 points—all with a miserable showing from his quarterbacks.
There is simply no excuse not to grab Gordon, who for the time being will work as car salesman, per ESPN.com's Josina Anderson. Pro Football Focus' Mike Clay and Yahoo Sports' Andy Behrens put it best:
Mike Clay @MikeClayNFL
Obviously pick Josh Gordon up where possible.2014-9-4 23:50:53
Andy Behrens @andybehrens
Here is the range of outcomes for Josh Gordon: Best case, 1600 yards & 14 TDs. Worst, he doesn't sell enough F-250s. So it's a wide range.2014-9-5 15:09:13
Fantasy football is all about risk-averse maneuvers with high upside. It is quite literally impossible to argue that Gordon does not present more upside than the last player on each and every owner's bench. That player was never going to be in the starting lineup more than a handful of times, barring a miracle, anyway.
It's not as if Gordon will be rusty and need time to get acclimated to the pros again. He still practiced with the team this preseason and appeared in a few exhibitions. There are no names on the roster—including new faces such as Miles Austin and Andrew Hawkins—who will get in the way of Gordon's targets if he returns.
Most important of all, though, is the fact that the quarterback situation is no worse than last year's mess. Just look at the hodgepodge of names that resulted in Gordon's 2013 output:
Brian Hoyer is the starter and good enough to spam the ball Gordon's way, as is rookie Johnny Manziel, should he crack the starting lineup. Clearly the chart shows that Gordon is a rare talent who elevates the play of his signal-caller, not the other way around.
Perhaps the best part of this convoluted situation is that owners who can get to Gordon fast enough and already drafted a No. 1 wideout may wind up with a pair of top-five scorers at the position. The rest of the league, obviously, will want to prevent this from happening.
Let the Gordon arms race begin in earnest.