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27 teams passed on Josh Gordon

Patriots vs Giants Staff Photo By Matt Stone/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald

The Seattle Seahawks claimed Josh Gordon on Friday despite being 28th in the waiver priority order. This means that 27 teams decided not to claim Gordon even though he’d basically be a “free” rental; free given the talent expectations for someone like Gordon but certainly not at zero cost.

The Seahawks must not only allocate a little bit of money to Gordon, they also had to make a roster spot available. This was done by releasing linebacker Dakota Watson, but it seems likely that a wide receiver will ultimately be the one to go before Seattle plays against the San Francisco 49ers on Monday Night Football in 10 days.

At 6-2 and dealing with a lack of starting talent at receiver despite keeping seven of them on the roster all season long, the Seahawks ultimately felt they had to replace one of their young pass catchers with a veteran who could help them for a postseason push. That had to be in Seattle’s list of reasons for using the claim on Gordon. They were 27 teams that didn’t have enough “pro” reasons for adding Gordon.

I want to briefly discuss why each of those 27 teams would let John Schneider “trade” for a receiver at midseason who has all of the talent and virtually none of the intangibles.

(preemptive response to that last thing I just said: Gordon’s talent is pretty meaningless to me at this point. He’s 28. He’s been singing the same musical since act one. He had to get drafted in the supplemental draft. His decisions cost him 2014. 2015. 2016. And 2017. And after dealing with all of that and getting him back, the Cleveland Browns still didn’t want him anymore. Then the Patriots got a hold of him, got a little something out of him, saw him have to leave the game again, still held onto him, and ultimately decided to do the same thing the Browns did a year earlier.

New England needed a receiver so bad that it traded a second round pick for Mohamed Sanu and that didn’t stop Bill Belichick from ending New England’s relationship with a guy who had 720 yards in 11 games for them a year earlier.

There are multiple ways to interpret “intangibles” here. I can’t speak on Gordon as a human or as a teammate. I don’t care if he smokes 20 trees a day. The Seahawks play in Washington, where weed is legal. I live in California, where weed is legal. It’ll soon be legal everywhere, I’m sure. (FieldGulls still has a “no politics” rule and you should only comment on marijuana use as it relates to Josh Gordon and the NFL.) In this case, I mean that Gordon isn’t a reliable enough player to count on beyond the very moment you’re with him. Seattle can’t count on Gordon to help them get to the playoffs. They can’t even count on him to play against the San Francisco 49ers in 10 days.

Josh Gordon is a comedian’s best joke, but also a comedian’s most offensive joke; he or she doesn’t know if it’s going to make them famous or end their career. So within that there’s also a general answer to this question for all 27 teams: They passed on him for the same reason that we all already know, which is that Gordon a massive liability.

New England is 8-0 and they figured that Gordon was bringing them down. What does that mean for a team at 6-2 and hinging on something much worse? What would it mean for a team that’s already 0-8? Cleveland went 0-5-1 after he returned in 2017. They got better after they released him. Every team had a great reason to pass on claiming Gordon. Seattle decided they had more reasons to add him than to pass on him. These 27 teams disagreed.)

1. Miami Dolphins - Despite head coach Brian Flores and offensive coordinator Chad O’Shea working with him personally last season, the Dolphins passed on Gordon. It’s actually possible that they thought he’d help them too much. It’s difficult to justify giving snaps to Gordon when your priority is losing while evaluating young talent.

2. Cincinnati Bengals - Weren’t worried about improving at receiver or improving at all.

3. Washington - Multiple teams apparently had the same reasons built around “liking the young receivers” they currently had and “chemistry.”

4. Atlanta Falcons - They have one of the best players in the game here, a solid number two, and a Pro Bowl receiving tight end having a career-year. If they weren’t 1-7 maybe you could dream of a best case scenario for Matt Ryan but this a team that felt comfortable trading away Mohamed Sanu already.

5. New York Jets - Feels like a very “Josh Gordon-y” destination, but the Jets aren’t taking snaps from Robby Anderson (26) and Jamison Crowder (actually 26 too), whereas they added Demaryius Thomas midseason and seem happy with him as the veteran presence. If there is a presumed risk to adding Gordon to your offensive chemistry when you’ve got a young franchise quarterback, the best case scenario should be something like “playoffs.” At 1-6, the Jets aren’t thinking playoffs.

6. New York Giants - The Giants are a lot of things “but lacking weapons” isn’t a concern. They build their offense around Saquon Barkley, they throw it to Evan Engram a lot and they’ve been targeting Golden Tate even more after adding him to the offense four weeks ago. Same as the Jets, what’s the benefit vs the risk for adding Gordon to your offense with a young quarterback? Even if Gordon succeeds you must wrestle with the idea of whether or not you even want to re-sign him.

(And all this nonsense about a compensatory pick. Yes it is possible. But 27 teams just passed on Gordon, and the Patriots basically make 28. For all we know, 31 of 32 teams just passed on Josh Gordon.)

7. Denver Broncos - Traded away Emmanuel Sanders. They aren’t trying to get better at receiver. At this point, Gordon is a veteran addition for a few games, not a developmental prospect. You don’t stash Gordon for 2020 and you don’t get a comp pick.

8. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, and Josh Gordon? Why? Tampa’s problem isn’t the receiving corps.

9. Cleveland Browns - Cleveland likely wants to keep a spot open for Braylon Edwards instead.

10. LA Chargers - I find this one to be the most interesting so far. The Chargers are 3-5 but if the Chiefs lose a very lose-able game to the Vikings this week, LA might only be one game back of first place. Keenan Allen is great but Mike Williams has not at all been good from a receiving standpoint. It would be a surprise to me at this point to see Williams as a starting receiver in this league by 2021. And over the last five weeks, Allen has just 5.6 yards per target. The 3-4-5 are Andre Patton, Jason Moore, and Geremy Davis. Then you just hope that Hunter Henry doesn’t get hurt again.

I’m not surprised that any team passed on Gordon, but this is the first spot that would have made a lot of sense to me.

11. Chicago Bears - Offensive-minded head coach Matt Nagy will have to lose those first two words of this sentence soon. Everything on Chicago’s offense seems to be bad except for Allen Robinson. Number two on the team in receiving yards is Anthony Miller at 211. Then it’s Tarik Cohen at 184. Then Taylor Gabriel at 169. You’d think the Bears still believe in a playoff run but apparently Gordon wasn’t seen as someone who could help them do that.

12. Pittsburgh Steelers - Le’Veon Bell gave the Steelers a bit of off-field trouble. Antonio Brown clearly had some issues that turned into distractions. Pittsburgh suddenly isn’t finding receiver talent around every corner anymore. Other than JuJu Smith-Schuster, it’s bare. James Washington hasn’t developed. But the distractions may play too big of a part here.

13. Oakland Raiders - With the opportunity to grab a big name regardless of what people say about his personality, the Raiders — who are led in receiving yards by Darren Waller and at the receiver position by Tyrell Williams — showed caution and patience. That feels monumental but after Antonio Brown, maybe all kinds of growth is possible for this organization. Or maybe this will look like a mistake in hindsight, who knows! The Raiders have seven receivers, including Zay Jones, Keelan Doss, and return specialist Dwayne Harris, but nothing to feel secure about. They still didn’t want Gordon.

14. Arizona Cardinals - They really can’t pass the ball well at all, which seems not-ideal for a Kliff Kingsbury offense. They even use one of their five receiver spots on Pharoh Cooper, who is not really a receiver. But I know they like the other four guys and I wonder if Larry Fitzgerald would just veto any distractions. Yes, I think Larry has number one veto power.

15. Tennessee Titans - They’re 2-0 since Ryan Tannehill took over but Corey Davis is underwhelming. Maybe not as underwhelming as Gordon. The Titans, another team led by a former Bill Belichick disciple, passed on the former Patriot.

16. Jacksonville Jaguars - A team that I actually feel confident in saying would not get more talented at receiver with Gordon. Don’t mess up Gardner Minshew’s thing with D.J. Chark, Chris Conley, and Dede Westbrook.

17. Philadelphia Eagles - They’re expecting DeSean Jackson to return soon but Philly has one of the worst receiving situations in the league for a playoff contender. They must be content with a future of Jackson, Alshon Jeffery, Zach Ertz, and then Nelson Agholor.

18. Detroit Lions - They only have four receivers on the roster, but Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones need not be replaced. Danny Amendola’s actually been pretty productive this season too, and tight end T.J. Hockenson isn’t someone they want to take targets away from. Totally sensible to pass on Gordon.

19. Carolina Panthers - Of their six receivers, you may be able to most justify replacing Jarius Wright with him. Gordon is two years younger than Wright and probably a better use of his 3-4 targets per game, but Carolina has a 22-year-old and a 23-year-old at receiver that they seem to like a lot. That, plus centering your offense around Christian McCaffrey, is probably enough of a reason to not cut a player for Gordon.

20. LA Rams - Where does he play?

21. Dallas Cowboys - A year ago this probably feels a bit like a no-brainer, but now with Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup, the brainer is for Jerry Jones to not scoop up any big name. Randall Cobb, Ezekiel Elliott, and Jason Witten make up the 3, 4, and 5 options for Dak Prescott, leaving little else for Gordon.

22. Houston Texans - Bill O’Brien, another former Belichick guy. DeAndre Hopkins, Will Fuller, and Kenny Stills don’t really make this a need.

23. KC Chiefs - Sammy Watkins, Travis Kelce, and Tyreek Hill immediately make weapons “not a priority” for the Chiefs, but Demarcus Robinson and Mecole Hardman are already deserving of more snaps when the offense has snaps to give. Even Byron Pringle might need a few more targets.

24 - Buffalo Bills - John Brown’s been quietly great this season. I see little other reasons for the Bills to pass up Gordon other than they just don’t want him. The receiving group here isn’t great but then again, Buffalo seems content to build their offense (again, around a young franchise quarterback) through the run game and aren’t as worried about finding a big number one. Maybe. This feels like in a traditional sense, that it would have been a fit.

25 - Baltimore Ravens - Another kind of surprising one. The Ravens are 5-2 and their top receiver is dealing with injury problems during his rookie season. Again: young QB. Again: run-first team. With the Bills, I almost feel like they just forgot to put in a claim, and with the Ravens, it seems like John Harbaugh didn’t think he needed to change what got them to 5-2. Clearly Pete Carroll felt differently about 6-2.

26 - Indianapolis Colts - Another 5-2 team. Another need at receiver. But the Colts are sticking with T.Y. Hilton, Zach Pascal, Chester Rogers, and Parris Campbell instead. Indy also has the most cap space in the NFL.

27 - Minnesota Vikings - They’ve got Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen, but that is very much it. Laquon Treadwell is still on this roster. (WOW!) Thielen’s even been hurt lately and that’s not enough for Mike Zimmer to make a move for Gordon.

28 - Seattle Seahawks - But Pete Carroll did!

One thing to note here is that nobody expected Josh Gordon to be claimed by the team with the 28th waiver priority. Most of the team sites who wrote about the possibility of picking up Gordon, if they weren’t in the top-10, expected it to not be a possibility. What you have here then is an incredible set of circumstances that led to Gordon dropping past 27 teams and landing way later than anyone predicted.

The teams at the very top didn’t want to get better or didn’t want to disrupt what they’ve been working on with the receivers they kept on the 53-man roster.

The teams in the lower-third either didn’t need to get better at receiver or didn’t want to risk hurting their winning roster by adding a player who has proven to be a net negative in the past. In some cases though, it almost feels like they didn’t even consider the idea that Gordon would get down the list as far as he did. I can totally understand and support not claiming Gordon, but I do find it a little surprising that the Bills, Ravens, Colts, and Vikings all said no thanks.

Same with all the teams ranked 10-15 in the order, plus the Eagles at 17. I guess that means that I could think of at least 11 teams right now that I’m at least a little shocked to see that they passed on Gordon. In some cases, I think roster management is the barrier. They just don’t want to cut any of their guys to “rent” a player who has struggled to stay off of the NFL’s radar. In other cases, I think his decision to sometimes walk away from the game to get better also kept teams at bay. And in others, it was just a scheme fit. He’s a good receiver, but that doesn’t make him the right receiver.

The Seattle Seahawks have Tyler Lockett but I wouldn’t count on a single other weapon on the offense to consistently make big catches from Russell Wilson. I wouldn’t be there yet with DK Metcalf. Not with David Moore. Sadly, because of the injury to Will Dissly, those are the only two receivers worth listing. We can’t expect anything from Jaron Brown, John Ursua, or Gary Jennings. Not from Luke Willson, Ed Dickson, or Jacob Hollister. I’m not counting on Malik Turner either. And not C.J. Prosise.

I also won’t count on Josh Gordon, but he is another option. When he comes at a low cost and at a time when the team is this desperate for a receiver with front-line ability, I guess that’s a risk worth taking.

He just had to pass by 27 other teams to get there.