A willingness to consider the CFL, Chris Jones’ ability to recruit high-profile players and truly exceptional talent are all reasons why the Saskatchewan Roughriders are willing to invest a negotiation list spot on receiver Josh Gordon.
Gordon’s CFL rights were available after the Stampeders removed the 27-year-old their list after almost four years, have originally added Gordon way back in 2014, just after he was suspended by the NFL for what was supposed to be the entire season due to a positive marijuana test.
Faced with the prospect of missing a full year on the football field, Gordon considered playing the remainder of the CFL schedule, though that would have required his receiving his release from the Browns. But the fact that Gordon wanted to play pro football in Canada stands out: he’s aware of the league, respects the high calibre of talent and saw it as a legitimate way to extend his playing career.
However, that was over four years ago and much has changed since. Marijuana issues have stunted his NFL career much as they did while at Baylor University. Gordon was suspended twice in the NCAA, including after an episode that involved then-teammate and current Riders defensive end Willie Jefferson, after Gordon was discovered passed out in a Taco Bell drive-through while Jefferson was at wheel.
A Houston native, Gordon entered the NFL via the supplemental draft when the Browns gave up a second-round pick. As a rookie, he produced 805 yards and five touchdowns on 50 catches. In June 2013, the NFL handed down a two-game suspension for a positive marijuana test. Gordon returned to the field for 14 games putting together a remarkable 1,646 yards – leading the NFL – and nine touchdowns on 87 receptions.
After multiple suspensions kept Gordon away from the field, it appeared Gordon was finally past four years of transgressions and ready to return for Cleveland full-time. But, according to the club, various factors played into the Browns trading him to the New England Patriots.
Clearly, Jones and the Riders feel – based on information from contacts around the NFL and likely Jefferson too – there’s a chance Gordon would consider the CFL if he ran out of NFL opportunities. Jones has been able to convince several star American players to give the CFL a shot during his time in Regina.
When Vince Young was added to the Riders neg list many people dismissed the notion he would ever cross the border, but Jones made it happen. The same can be said for Trent Richardson. Jones brought him to Saskatchewan and it worked out better than Young. Richardson produced a 100-yard rushing game and improved each time out on the CFL field. But the powerful back ultimately wanted to play close to home and Jones allowed him to sign with the Birmingham Alliance of American Football franchise.
If Jones wants a player bad enough it seems he can turn into quite the salesman and consummate a deal. Marijuana is soon going to be legal in Canada, so Gordon, like Duron Carter, could play without fear of a suspension. And the Riders would get a dynamic receiver who has the ability to be one of the best in the game, just by adding his name to a list.
Should Gordon get to the point where no NFL teams come calling – and Jones could get it done – and it would be well worth the wait. And the investment.