What Josh Gordon’s return to Patriots means in the short term, long term

Ryan Hannable
August 17, 2019 - 7:18 am

On Friday, Josh Gordon was conditionally reinstated by the NFL and can return to the Patriots on Sunday.

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This is great news for the team considering all the injuries and not much talent it currently has at the wide receiver position. Of course, Gordon’s health and well being comes before football, but him being on the field impacts the Patriots in a big way.

In the short-term, as long as Gordon can physically be ready for Week 1, he instantly jumps to No. 2 on the depth chart behind Julian Edelman. It likely means Edelman, who seems likely to return from a thumb injury soon, will play in the slot, with Gordon and either Phillip Dorsett, Jakobi Meyers or N’Keal Harry on the outside.

This is much better than what Tom Brady was working with on Thursday in Tennessee in the final joint practice against the Titans when Dontrelle Inman, Braxton Berrios and Gunner Olszewski made up the first unit wide receivers.

The position is now becoming much more clear, especially considering it’s likely the team will stick with six receivers, including Matthew Slater, come Week 1.

Edelman. Gordon, Harry and Meyers feel like locks, which means Dorsett, Berrios and Maurice Harris are probably fighting for the final spot. Gordon’s return also means the team can afford to be patient with Demaryius Thomas and not rush him off PUP. He continues to work his way back from an Achilles injury suffered last December.

Gordon’s return makes the Patriots wide receiver position that much deeper, which is something they desperately needed.

But long-term, it’s hard to fully count on Gordon given his past. 

Just look at what happened last year when everything was going fine and then he was suspended in December as the playoffs neared. With this in mind, the team needs to have a fallback plan if something were to happen again. It appears to have that with Thomas, who seems likely to start the year on PUP and then be activated at some point in the middle of the year. Maybe the team even carries seven wide receivers, including Slater, just to be safe.

Given how talented Gordon is and his connection with Brady, it is very easy to get all jacked up for what could come, but at the same time it is also worth remembering what happened last year and take things week-to-week.

It's great that Gordon got the help he needed and is able to play football again, but it's a situation that needs to be handled with care and it just cannot be assumed he will be on the roster for the entire 16 games, plus any playoff games.

Related: OJ Simpson shares thoughts on Josh Gordon’s return to Patriots