Sources: NFL Teams Eager to Forgive and Forget Josh Gordon's Past

Mike Freeman@@mikefreemanNFLNFL National Lead WriterApril 15, 2016

FILE - In this Dec. 21, 2014, file photo, Cleveland Browns' Josh Gordon (12) stretches before an NFL football game against the Carolina Panthers in Charlotte, N.C. The NFL has denied suspended receiver Gordon’s application for reinstatement. A league spokesman confirmed Tuesday, April 12, that the application was denied and that Gordon can apply again at a future date. The decision puts Gordon’s participation for the 2016 season in doubt. He was suspended for all of 2015 for testing positive for alcohol. (AP Photo/Bob Leverone, File)
Bob Leverone/Associated Press

It shouldn't be shocking. No, it shouldn't be. But in a way it is. Josh Gordon has numerous suitors. Lots of them. Lots and lots and lots. 

Over the past few days, in speaking with sources in eight NFL front offices, I've seen a clear picture of Gordon's future emerge. Despite failing multiple drug tests—despite apparently thinking the NFL's drug policies are voluntary—Gordon still garners a great deal of interest.

What seems certain after my discussions with these officials is that Gordon will have a home if he gives up marijuana. He will, in fact, have his choice of homes should the Browns not want him.

Two things you hear often in these conversations: First, it seems many teams in football don't see what Gordon has done as deal-breaking. "He's not Greg Hardy," one assistant general manager said.

Josh Gordon career stats

Second, and not coincidentally, the feeling among some teams is that Gordon could easily in just a year or two be as good as any receiver in football. Remember, he's only 25.

Yes, I know you're shocked. Teams are willing to take a chance on a troubled but talented player? No way!

But still, I was slightly surprised by what teams were telling me. In some ways, I admire it. Gordon isn't a serious criminal. He's not a bank robber. He's using a drug the NFL should make legal, anyway. That was something else I heard from teams repeatedly.

The main message from these teams seems to be that Gordon would be worth the potential risk and embarrassment he might bring to a franchise. Thus, in many ways, this is an old story: Talent trumps all. Talent even trumps that a guy seems to like edibles over football.

There was something else that struck me when speaking to teams. They seem to know an awful lot about Gordon's current lifestyle. I mean, an awful lot.

The Browns hold Gordon's rights, but other teams expressed to me, some in detail, things that were happening in Gordon's life that only Gordon or people close to him would know. (Not that tampering ever happens in the NFL. Ever. Ever, ever.) I heard things about his workout schedule, how he's gotten rid of certain friends who were bad influences (not including Johnny Manziel, apparently) and a general overall improvement in his attitude.

Teams are monitoring him closely and possibly breaking the tampering rules to do so. I also get the feeling teams want him to do well. It sounds like they genuinely like him and, again, don't see what he's doing as a major crime.

Gordon can apply for reinstatement August 1, and teams I spoke to believe Gordon won't mess up again and will likely be reinstated. Which, when you think about it, is incredible. Gordon has gotten an incredible number of chances.

Here's what his agent, Drew Rosenhaus, said Wednesday on SiriusXM NFL Radio (via Cleveland.com's Mary Kay Cabot) about where Gordon's at right now:

Josh has been working very hard over the past year to get himself back into the NFL. Obviously there's been a hiccup here. He acknowledged that. But he'll have another opportunity before the season to show the NFL that he's got his life in order and that he's ready to resume his NFL career without any setbacks and I'm very hopeful that he will.

He's had, as I said, a recent setback here, but it's not of the nature where it's going to derail his hopes. It's a temporary setback. I'm confident he can get right back on track and without getting into the details because that's the very thing we're upset about, I really believe that Josh has done an admirable job up until point. I hope can get back to that and I'm confident that he will.

Browns executive vice president Sashi Brown, meanwhile, also in an interview with SiriusXM NFL Radio, said the team isn't expecting Gordon back:

Once Josh was suspended, we organizationally set our mind frame to not counting on him coming back, and I think that's the only healthy way to operate and the way we continue to look at it. And if Josh is fortunate enough to be reinstated, obviously we'll have some discussions with him at that time.

In the meantime, the main thing that I think I take away from it is I just hope Josh gets to a place where he's able to be reinstated and I don't want to say his life's not together but whatever might be preventing him from being reinstated he can have addressed and get on a good path moving forward. He's got a bright future ahead of him and he's still young as heck. So we're rooting for him and if it comes to pass that he's back in the league great.

I'm not so sure I believe Brown. I think the Browns will be in the Gordon mix if he's reinstated. Just like other teams.

I'm with some of these other teams. I think Gordon will finally, finally (finally) clean up his life and get reinstated. Then he'll get signed. My guess is he ends up with the Rams.

Then comes the hard part—Gordon not failing another test. That's where whichever team signs him crosses its fingers.

And toes.

Mike Freeman covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. 


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