This season, wide receiver Josh Gordon struggled as a New England Patriot. At times, it looked like he'd lost a step. In some ways, he looked done.
Still, the Patriots believed—then and now—that Gordon can be a solid weapon.
Then why did they release him? One Patriots team source said the answer was simple: Both Gordon and the Patriots felt he needed a change of scenery. The lack of explanation says a lot.
Let's translate: The "change of scenery" vocabulary usually means the team believes the player can no longer produce for them. There was a definite shift in the relationship between the Patriots and Gordon. Few outside of the organization know why that happened, and no one is talking about it.
Now Gordon is in Seattle, who picked him up off waivers. (They were the only team to put in a claim.) The bet here is that quarterback Russell Wilson can again make Gordon a good receiver.
If the Seahawks are correct, they will have created maybe the best, deepest and fastest receiving corps in football. And if not, well, the risk to the Seahawks is minimal. They picked up the $1 million-plus he's owed from New England but could just release him if the fit isn't good. Or if substance abuse issues that have seen him suspended five times in eight years re-emerge.
But if Gordon can reclaim even a fraction of his past skills, an already dangerous Seahawks offense would become almost unstoppable.
The Seahawks already have a remarkable quarterback-receiver duo in Wilson and Tyler Lockett, a connection so explosive, it's reaching team record territory.
Lockett has 59 catches for 767 yards and six touchdowns in nine games, putting him on pace for 105 catches, 1,364 yards and 11 touchdowns. If he reaches that goal, he'd pass Hall of Famer Steve Largent for the most receiving yards in a season for the franchise.
"I can't even explain or describe it or whatever, other than to just kind of marvel and watch it and have fun watching these guys play the game," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said recently at his weekly press conference. "They are extraordinary players, and we're so lucky that they have kind of grown up together. The benefit of all that time. The marvelous connection that they have is as good as you can get. It's just a joy to watch them play and practice and work."
There's also rookie DK Metcalf. Before the draft, some teams believed Metcalf's limited route tree in college would hamper his production in the pros. Again, Wilson has been key to unlocking a player's potential. Metcalf was bound to run more diverse routes because Wilson's throwing accuracy makes any receiver—especially one with Metcalf's skills—a threat all over the field. Now, he is on pace to tally around 1,000 receiving yards as well.
Focus on Lockett, then Metcalf burns you. Focus on Metcalf, then Lockett burns you. Shut both of them down, then Wilson's running burns you. It leaves opposing defenses stuck picking their source of incineration.
Gordon adds another target to open things up for Seattle's explosive offensive trio.
It's true that with the Patriots this year, Gordon didn't have the burst that he's had at other points in his career. When Gordon ran, he looked like he was running at three-quarters speed.
One of Wilson's best attributes is how he develops almost a Vulcan mind meld with his receivers. The chemistry he cultivates is uncanny. If that happens again, it could reenergize Gordon, who doesn't need to be a star for this move to work; he just has to make it easier for Lockett and Metcalf to remain stars.
Seattle's locker room should help, too. Seahawks players have told me repeatedly how the team has pulled off the trick of being empathetic and supportive of players in a league that often cares more about money than the well-being of its athletes.
"You look at the history of this organization, you always have different personalities, and the locker room always stays intact," offensive lineman Duane Brown told the Seattle Times. "Guys thrive here, and I think [Gordon will] be no exception. We were all very excited when we saw the news. So when he gets here, we'll embrace him. We'll be here for him in whatever capacity we need to be, but I expect nothing but the best from him."
Will this work? No one knows.
But if it does, this is the type of move that could put the Seahawks in the Super Bowl...again.