Reimer: Patriots should target Dez Bryant over Josh Gordon if they're looking for troubled wideout

Alex Reimer
September 17, 2018 - 12:23 pm

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The Patriots are reportedly hosting Kenny Britt for a workout Monday, just three weeks after releasing him. While they’re bringing in troubled wideouts to augment this sorry receiving corps, you would think they would be interested in two guys who actually have talent. 

Dez Bryant and Josh Gordon are now available, with the Browns announcing over the weekend they’re cutting bait with Gordon after four problematic years. The apparent last straw came Saturday, when Gordon told the team he injured his hamstring at a supposed Friday promotional shoot. He apparently did not appear to be himself when he showed up to the team facility. In a statement, Browns general manager John Dorsey says they've reached the point where they feel it’s best to “part ways and move forward.”

According to reports, Dorsey is expected to move Gordon by 4:00 p.m. Monday for “legit” compensation. Though Gordon has only played in 11 games since 2014 due to various suspensions for substance abuse, he led the NFL in receiving yards in 2013. 

The Vegas oddsmakers currently put the Patriots as co-favorites to land Gordon, along with the Cowboys. It seems like Dallas is a more likely landing spot, considering the Browns reportedly don’t want to trade Gordon to an AFC team. Smart move for a team that hasn’t won a game since December 2016. 

But even if Gordon is a realistic possibility for the Patriots, they would be wise to steer clear. Bryant remains the problematic wideout they should target. 

Bill Belichick is known for pursuing “low-risk, high-reward” players. But that phrase only applies to Bryant. ESPN’s Josina Anderson says eight to 10 teams have phoned Cleveland about Gordon. If true, it will almost certainly take a significant haul of draft picks to land him. 

Meanwhile, it would probably only take a few million dollars to sign Bryant. While Bryant’s contractual demands were reportedly too high for the Browns –– they brought him in for a visit in August –– that doesn’t mean he wouldn’t settle for less in New England. NFL Network reported over the summer Bryant is seeking a one-year “prove it deal.” There are few better ways to reestablish your value than lining up next to Tom Brady.

Bryant seemingly knows that, too. Last week, he tweeted about how much success he would enjoy in the Patriots’ offense.

The biggest knock against Bryant is his history of outbursts. But one of his most publicized incidents was a misunderstanding. In 2013, Bryant was spotted yelling in Romo’s face against the Lions, but audio from NFL Films revealed he was pumping his quarterback –– rather than chastising him.

Even at his worst, it’s apparent Bryant cares deeply about football. That’s not true for Gordon, who was suspended for 10 games in 2014 and all of 2015 for multiple violations of the league’s substance-abuse policy. His appeal for reinstatement was denied in January 2016 when he failed another drug test. Finally, Gordon was readmitted in July, but walked away from the Browns that September to enter an in-patient rehab facility. 

Last season, Gordon did appear in five games for the winless Browns, even scoring a touchdown in Week 13. But then he didn’t show up training camp this year, citing his mental health. 

In an interview last year with GQ, Gordon said he would drink or smoke weed before every football game, dating back to college. 

Gordon, unfortunately, cannot be counted on to show up every week. To state the obvious, that adds to the risk of acquiring him –– especially if actual draft compensation is required. 

Bryant is far more of a classic Belichick pickup, and while his skills have declined, the doomsday commentary around him is overblown. He still managed to reel in 69 catches last season, which would’ve tied him with Rob Gronkowski for the Patriots’ lead in 2017. Plus, the Cowboys finished 26th in the league in passing yards last year. Dak Prescott has trouble making it work with all receivers, not just Bryant.

Since the Patriots haven’t been tied to Bryant yet, it doesn’t appear they’re all that interested in his services. But he would be a far better pickup than Gordon. For starters, you could at least count on Bryant to show up and want to play every week.

That’s more than you can sadly say for Gordon at this stage.

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