Argos signing suspended NFL receiver Martavis Bryant could provide path for Josh Gordon coming to Canada

Photos courtesy: Cleveland Browns & Pittsburgh Steelers. Photo edit: 3DownNation

Photos courtesy: Cleveland Browns & Pittsburgh Steelers. Photo edit: 3DownNation

The Toronto Argonauts signing former NFL receiver Martavis Bryant could provide the path for Josh Gordon to come north of the border.

The Argos re-added Gordon to the team’s exclusive negotiation list on December 28, 2020. Exactly one week earlier, the NFL determined Gordon broke the terms of his conditional reinstatement after being suspended indefinitely for violating the league’s substance abuse policy.

The move sidelined Gordon again, creating even more uncertainty regarding his future in the NFL. The receiver didn’t play a down in 2020 for the Seattle Seahawks after being suspended for a fifth time in December 2019.

Bryant has been out of the NFL for two full years after being suspended indefinitely by the NFL for violating terms of his conditional reinstatement. The 29-year-old missed four games at the start of the 2015 season and the entire 2016 season due to substance abuse suspensions.

In 2018, the Saskatchewan Roughriders neg listed Gordon and Bryant. However, it wasn’t the right timing as Bryant felt he could get back on an NFL field, especially after the Las Vegas Raiders traded a third-round pick for his rights.

Parts of the coaching and management staff who tried to bring Bryant to the prairies in 2018 are currently employed by Toronto. The familiarity helped this time around with Bryant looking to play football again.

The Argos put Bryant on the neg list late in January when it appeared Bryant was actually going to put pen to paper.

Bryant is enthusiastic about playing in Toronto and has an affinity for the city. The six-foot-four, 210-pound target has a big frame and can run, recording a 4.42 laser-timed 40-yard dash at the 2014 NFL Combine. He was selected by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the fourth round, 118th overall that same year.

Gordon is a thicker athlete than Bryant and has elite playmaking ability. Both have had issues with marijuana throughout their NFL careers in the United States, but the substance is legal in Canada.

Gordon was Calgary Stampeders’ property for nearly four years. He was initially added to the team’s neg list after being suspended by the NFL for a positive marijuana test.

Faced with the prospect of missing a full year on the football field in 2014, Gordon considered playing the remainder of the CFL schedule, although that would have required obtaining his release from the Cleveland Browns at the time.

The fact that Gordon wanted to play pro football in Canada stands out. He’s aware of the league, respects the high level of talent, and sees it as a legitimate way to extend his playing career.

Gordon has played 63 career NFL games, making 247 receptions for 4,252 yards and 20 touchdowns while averaging 17.1 yards per catch. His best season came in 2013 when he caught 87 passes for a league-leading 1,646 yards with nine touchdowns in 14 games. Through parts of six seasons in the NFL, Gordon has made over $5.5 million.

Following the Bryant signing, there is a belief that if Seattle severs ties with Gordon, the 2013 first-team All-Pro could actually end up playing football in Canada. There are still steps that have to occur for it to happen, but the Bryant contract sets a precedent for a player in a very similar position to come to the CFL.

Bryant and Gordon running together with the Argos’ starting offence would help draw eyeballs that are desperately needed in Toronto.

Justin Dunk is a football insider, sports reporter and anchor.