There may not be a player in the history of the National Football League who is known more for what he hasn't done on the field than Josh Gordon. All the way back in 2013, Gordon had a season for the ages with the Cleveland Browns—87 catches, over 1,600 yards, nearly 19 yards per reception and nine touchdowns. He was a superstar in the making.
But since then, Gordon has missed more than 50 games as the result of five separate suspensions for violating the league's substance-abuse policy—including an indefinite suspension last December when Gordon was a member of the Seattle Seahawks.
As Tom Pelissero of NFL Network reported June 18, Gordon recently applied for reinstatement by the league. Per Pelissero, Gordon's attorney, Adam Kenner, indicated that the wide receiver made a misstep after the death of his brother:
"Josh had a lapse because of his brother's death. But since that time, he has realized how important it is for him to take the right steps, do what’s proper and understand how to manage these issues. He's installed the right team around him to make sure he's on the right path. He understands he’s been given every chance. He looks forward to making the most of this."
The league is expected to rule on Gordon's reinstatement within the next 30 days. Given the circumstances surrounding Gordon's relapse and the league's evolving position on marijuana use in the new collective bargaining agreement, it's not unreasonable to imagine the 29-year-old getting another chance to revive his NFL career.
And while Gordon hasn't had more than 41 catches or tallied 750 receiving yards in a season since that massive year in Cleveland, he did post a 41/737/4 line with the Browns and New England Patriots in 2018 and has shown flashes of the physical gifts that made him so unstoppable back in the day.
There are going to be teams interested in his talent, and a few stand out as good fits for Gordon in 2020.
If there's a clubhouse leader to bring in Gordon, it has to be the Seattle Seahawks—for a number of reasons.
According to Cody Benjamin of CBS Sports, the Seahawks were believed to be the only team that put in a claim for Gordon after the Patriots waived him last year. And while Gordon didn't make a huge dent in the stat sheet in the Pacific Northwest (seven catches for 139 yards in five games), he did make a positive impression on Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll.
"We saw Josh at a really high level, the whole time he was here," Carroll said in December, per Gregg Bell of the Tacoma News Tribune. "The work ethic was one, but his getting along with people and being good to work with and talk to on a regular basis, he was great."
Given what Gordon had to say about his time in Seattle, it appears as though the feeling is mutual.
"I think, optimistically, that's anybody’s goal, any player's goal, to try to find a place you can call home—in all aspects," Gordon said. "The culture's just different. I think it's something that felt more like a fit, I guess, to me. It's pretty natural. It's pretty smooth. It's just my pace, I guess."
As recently as March, Gordon made it clear that his feelings about the Seahawks hadn't changed.
According to Mike Garafalo of NFL Network, there is a "strong sense" the Seahawks will eventually sign a veteran wide receiver. From all indications, Gordon was well-liked by his teammates and coaches in Seattle. He appears to have enjoyed his time with the team, wants to play for the Seahawks again and has been training in the Seattle area.
Add in Carroll's affinity for reclamation projects, and it would be something of an upset if Gordon doesn't wind up back with the Seahawks.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Buccaneers appear to be the kind of team that could pull off the upset. After all, they've been pulling off personnel upsets all offseason.
With the additions of players such as Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski, the team has made it clear it is looking to make a deep playoff run in 2020. And while Tampa has an outstanding one-two punch at wide receiver in Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, there isn't a lot on the depth chart behind them, leading to speculation that the Buccaneers could be in the market for a veteran wideout.
That speculation led to Antonio Brown being connected to Tampa—speculation that head coach Bruce Arians promptly shot down.
"Yeah, it's not gonna happen," Arians told the Tiki and Tierney show in March (via ESPN's Jenna Laine). "There's no room. And probably not enough money. But it's not gonna happen—it's not a fit here."
Brown's brief time with Brady in New England was part of the reason he was connected with the Bucs. But while Brown played all of one game with Brady, Gordon was in New England for over a year. As ESPN's Mike Reiss reported in 2018, Gordon appreciated his time learning from Brady in Beantown.
"It's good to be able to be in such close proximity to learn from him. I look up to the guy," Gordon said. "He's done everything right, so I just enjoy the time being around him."
Even though Gordon hasn't been able to stay on the field, he's never been known as an issue in the locker room. He and Brady seemingly had a good relationship in New England, and there's no denying that the Bucs could use an upgrade at the third receiver spot.
As Mike Florio reported for Pro Football Talk, like Arians, new Washington head coach Ron Rivera was asked recently about the possibility of bringing in Antonio Brown. Rivera seemed to dismiss the notion, stating that he didn't want to potentially stunt the growth of the team's young receiving corps:
"For us to bring a veteran guy in a couple of positions, we have to see what we have in terms of our young guys first. I made the comment about our left tackle position. We have a group of young guys that we have to find out whether or not they have the ability to be football players. If you bring in a veteran right now, you are going to stunt the growth of someone young."
There's an argument to be made, however, that it would be a good idea to bring in Gordon. Had Gordon's professional career started in 2020 instead of 2012, his suspensions related to marijuana would not have happened, and the wide receiver has shown dedication in his recovery from addiction.
While Rivera may not want to stunt the growth of his young wideouts, the cold, hard truth is that there may not be a team more in need of a boost at the position. Terry McLaurin is coming off an impressive rookie season, but behind him there's a whole lot of "meh" meets "maybe." Whether it's Trey Quinn, Kelvin Harmon or rookie Antonio Gandy-Golden, Washington is precariously short on proven options.
That's not going to help the development of second-year quarterback Dwayne Haskins.
Gordon would also see a familiar face on the Washington staff. Offensive coordinator Scott Turner was the wide receivers coach in Cleveland during Gordon's breakout season in 2013.
Playing in Washington wouldn't give Gordon the opportunity for a playoff run like in Tampa or Seattle, but there's one thing he could have in D.C. that he wouldn't with the Buccaneers or Seahawks.
The chance to be a No. 1 receiver again.