The Patriots have made 28 transactions at wide receiver since the start of the league year, but no move compares to the magnitude of the Josh Gordon trade. New England sent a fifth-round pick to the Browns Monday to acquire the troubled wide receiver, who’s only played in 11 games since 2013.
The fact the Patriots were willing to give up any currency for a player with that track record speaks to Gordon’s talent. In 2013, the last time he played more than five games in a season, he led the league in receiving yards and became the first wideout to ever enjoy back-to-back 200-yard performances. Gordon accomplished all of this with Jason Campbell, Brandon Weeden and Brian Hoyer throwing him the football.
The Browns announced Saturday they were finally cutting ties with Gordon, after he showed up late to the team facility and was reportedly “not himself.” Gordon complained about a sore hamstring he apparently hurt at a promotional shoot Friday night, and was told to stay home while his teammates traveled to Pittsburgh. Shortly thereafter, Browns general manager John Dorsey released a statement, saying the organization felt it had reached a point where it was “best to part ways and move forward.”
There are several examples of Bill Belichick picking up problematic Pro Bowlers on the cheap, and Gordon is another one. In an interview with GQ, Gordon said he first started using drugs in middle school, as a way to treat his debilitating anxiety. That’s the genesis of his long history with substance abuse, which he says propelled him to drink or smoke marijuana before every game of his college and professional career.
The timeline of Gordon’s erratic football career is below, beginning with a drug possession charge in college, and escalating from there:
Oct. 7, 2010: During his sophomore season at Baylor, Gordon was found asleep in the passenger’s seat of a car belonging to one of his teammates, who was also passed out. The vehicle was parked outside of a Taco Bell. Marijuana was found in the car, and both men were charged with misdeamanor drug possession.
July 25, 2011: Gordon is suspended indefinitely from the Baylor program, due to a failed drug test. Of course, there was far worse going on with Baylor at the time, as an independent investigation found the school protected its football players from sexual assault accusations.
Aug. 25, 2011: Gordon transfers from Baylor to the University of Utah, but didn’t play during the 2011 season, because he declared too late for the 2011 supplemental draft.
July 12, 2012: The Browns select Gordon in the second-round of the 2012 supplemental draft.
2012 Season: This is the only NFL season Gordon has played in all 16 games. He finished his impressive rookie year with 50 catches for 805 yards and five touchdowns.
June 7, 2013: Gordon gets slapped with his first suspension for violating the NFL’s substance-abuse policy. He misses the first two games of the 2013 campaign.
2013 Season: Gordon earns first-team All-Pro honors for his breakout season. He caught 87 passes for 1,646 yards and nine touchdowns.
July 5, 2014: Gordon is arrested in North Carolina for driving under the influence. He was speeding and had a blood-alcohol content level of .09, which is above the legal limit.
Aug. 27, 2014: Gordon fails another drug test and is suspended for the entire season for violating the NFL’s substance-abuse policy. It is reportedly his fourth violation.
Sept. 12, 2014: Gordon’s suspension is cut down to 10 games, due to the NFL’s new (slightly) more lenient drug policy.
Dec. 27, 2014: Though Gordon returned for five games –– including a 120-yard performance against the Falcons in his first game back –– the Browns suspend him one game for violating team rules. He and Johnny Manziel reportedly missed the team’s Saturday walkthrough that week.
Feb. 3, 2015: Gordon faces another year-long suspension from the NFL after testing positive for alcohol. Players in Stage 3 of the NFL’s substance-abuse program submit to an alcohol screen as part of their random in-season drug testing.
April 12, 2016: Gordon’s application for reinstatement is denied, because he failed another drug test.
July 25, 2016: The NFL finally reinstates Gordon, but suspends him for the first four games of the 2016 season.
Sept. 29, 2016: Gordon opts to go to rehab instead of returning to the field, leading him to miss the entirety of the 2016 campaign. Gordon told GQ he decided to enter rehab after being told there was a warrant out for his arrest for failing to comply with a paternity test.
May 11, 2017: The NFL denies Gordon’s latest petition for reinstatement.
Nov. 6, 2017: Bombshell GQ interview drops, where Gordon details for his long history of substance-abuse for the first time.
Nov. 30, 2017: Gordon is activated off the commissioner’s exempt list and eligible to play. He appears in the Browns’ final five games, catching 18 passes for 335 yards and a touchdown. Amazingly, Gordon was on pace for a 1,000-yard season if he played the full 16 games, showing his incredible skill level hadn’t waned.
March 13, 2018: Browns sign Gordon to a one-year, $790,000 deal. The Patriots are on the hook for the remainder of his salary, and can tender him at the end of the season. If Gordon plays well, he is a bargain, which probably contributed to Belichick’s interest in him.
Training Camp 2018: Gordon misses the bulk of training camp due to mental health issues. He returns at the end of August.
Sept. 9, 2018: Gordon plays in Cleveland’s Week 1 tie against the Steelers, catching the game-tying touchdown pass late in the fourth quarter.
Sept. 15, 2018: The Browns rule out Gordon for Week 2, and announce their intentions to trade or release him.
Sept. 17, 2018: Patriots acquire Gordon for a fifth-round pick. They will get a seventh-round pick from the Browns if Gordon doesn’t appear in 10 games.