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Will the Seahawks bring back Josh Gordon?

NFL: DEC 08 Seahawks at Rams Photo by Jevone Moore/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

It was widely reported this week that Seattle Seahawks free agent wide receiver Josh Gordon has applied to the NFL for reinstatement, which, of course, has brought about significant speculation that the Hawks could bring him back. He was at times very impressive, and his ability to connect with Russell Wilson on third down slant routes seemed like a cheat code the offense could have potentially used more often. However, the question is, whether the Seahawks will be interested.

Gordon, no doubt, has talent and skill. His ability to contribute when available is unquestioned, and at 29 he’s still young enough to have plenty left in the tank. However, the question is whether the team will break tendency and bring back a player who had been suspended under the league’s substance abuse policy.

Since Pete Carroll and John Schneider arrived in 2010 the team has had a multitude off players who have been suspended under the substance abuse policy, and they have allowed most of those players to leave as free agents when their contracts expired. The list of names allowed to leave includes:

  • Dion Jordan,
  • Brandon Browner,
  • Bruce Irvin,
  • Walter Thurmond,
  • Al Woods,
  • John Moffitt,
  • Allen Barbre,
  • Winston Guy,
  • Derrick Coleman,

and there are certainly others that have been missed, as well as guys like Jeremy Lane and Spencer Ware who were released after DUI arrests.

In short, when the Hawks can’t rely on a player for availability reason following a failed drug test, either for a substance of abuse or for PEDs, the Hawks have an unquestioned trend of not bringing that player back. This includes the case of Dion Jordan, who last offseason was facing a ten game suspension to start the 2019 season following a failed PED test late in 2018. For Jordan, it was a situation he described as:

According to Jordan, there were several stressors in his life toward the end of last season with the Seattle Seahawks. His sister, who he thinks of more like his daughter, was dealing with serious personal issues. Then he found out shortly before the Seahawks’ playoff game at Dallas that his grandmother had weeks left to live; she died soon after.

Which, as PFT, part of NBC Sports noted, that is not dissimilar from what Gordon’s agent states led to the second of two failed tests last season:

“Josh had a lapse because of his brother’s death,” Adam Kenner told Pelissero. “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.”

So, if the team indeed has a policy or rule in place to stay away from players who have been unavailable following a drug or alcohol suspension, then it would seem unlikely they sign Gordon. However, if there is any truth to the idea that 2020 or 2021 could be Pete Carroll’s final season at the helm of the Seahawks, and the team is loading up on talent for a final push towards a Lombardi before Carroll hangs things up, the rule of protecting the team comes second to giving the team a shot to convert on third down.

Gordon’s 2019 suspension for a diluted sample, which constitutes a failure of the league’s PED policy, is likely to include the first two games of the 2020 season. So, the question it seems is whether it’s worth the risk to have a player on the roster taking up a spot if that player’s availability is not guaranteed. In the past, as noted, the Hawks have tended to stay away from such players, however, the new collective bargaining agreement could change things in a way such that the calculus on the risk:reward ratio is far different than it has been in the past.

Specifically, the new CBA allows for players of any level of experience to be kept on the practice squad, and each week two players may be promoted to the active 53 man roster and returned to the practice squad following the game without being exposed to waivers. Any individual player can be moved up and down twice in this manner over the course of the season. What this means for the Seahawks and Gordon is that the team could bring him back for training camp and then move him to the commissioner’s exempt list for the final two games of his 2019 suspension.

From there, as a veteran, he would not be subject to waivers if released, so the team could release him upon his return from the commissioner’s exempt list and immediately sign him to the practice squad. He could be promoted to the active roster for each of the team’s subsequent two games, giving Gordon two games to show what he can do on the field and the team a quarter of the season to understand what it has at the receiver position. Specifically, will either of, or possibly both of, Phillip Dorsett and David Moore perform at a level where Gordon’s skills are more of a luxury than a necessity? Or will both of those two come up short of what fans are hoping for this year?

In any case, as a result of the changes in the new CBA, it won’t be as much of a surprise to see Josh Gordon on the Seahawks in 2020 as it might have been in seasons past. Add in that the Seahawks have been very good at working to exploit the CBA to their advantage in seasons past, it won’t be a surprise if they get creative in order to keep Gordon around as a low risk investment in a shot at Lombardi glory in 2020.