During the Belichickian Era of New England Patriots football, there have been many examples of the guru of the dynasty snatching intriguing talents from another team’s dumpster.
We were reminded of this again Monday when the Patriots took troubled receiver Josh Gordon off the hands of the destitute Cleveland Browns, an organization that is 1-32-1 since the start of 2016. And all it took was a fifth-round pick in 2019.
It is Belichick’s hope, of course, that the discipline with which he runs his organization – The Patriot Way – wears off on this talented but troubled receiver.
The Browns announced on Sept. 15 that they finally had enough of Gordon after dealing for four years with an addiction that caused him to miss 56 of a possible 97 games with the team. Gordon had been suspended multiple times during those years for failed drug tests. It finally came to a head after Gordon showed up late to practice on Saturday and, according to an NFL source who spoke to Cleveland.com, was “not himself.”
Belichick was willing to take the chance on Gordon because he has taken on similar players and reaped the benefits of their reformations. After all, in 2013, Gordon led the NFL in receiving with 1,646 yards, despite only playing in 14 games. But he has scored only two touchdowns since and has only played in 11 games since the end of 2014.
Randy Moss was one of the greatest receivers in Vikings history, but he was noticeably unmotivated in his two years with the Oakland Raiders. So Oakland was willing to dump him for a fourth-round pick in 2007 and all Moss did was catch 95 passes for 23 touchdowns and make the Pro Bowl that season after helping the Pats to an undefeated regular season. Two more 1,000-yard seasons followed before he was sent back to the Vikings.
LeGarrette Blount came to the Patriots for the first time in 2013 after having very little to do in Tampa Bay. The Patriots made the playoffs and he had 166 rushing yards and four touchdowns in a Divisional Round win over the Indianapolis Colts. He signed with the Steelers in 2014 but his stay there was troubled and in a November game against the Tennessee Titans, Blount left the field before the end of the game after not getting a single touch. Blount was released by the Steelers and the Pats resigned him a week later. Of course, he was also considered damaged goods by some after punching some dude from Boise State on the playing field when he was Oregon. But he proved to be a gallant soldier for the Pats, especially in 2016 when he gained 1,161 yards rushing with 18 touchdowns before he left for the Eagles in 2017.
Corey Dillon came to the Patriots in 2004 from the Cincinnati Bengals for a second-round pick after a prolonged battle with the organization after getting injured and losing his job to Rudi Johnson. When the 2003 season ended, Dillon cleaned out his locker and demanded to be dealt after he gained only 541 yards. Dillon gained 1,635 yards in his first season, and the Patriots won the Super Bowl.
And then there was Donte Stallworth, a receiver who originally signed a six-year deal with the Pats in 2007 after playing with New Orleans and Philadelphia and being admitted to the league’s substance abuse program. The Pats released him after one season and he signed with Cleveland. He was with the Browns when he killed a construction worker in 2009 while driving his Bentley while drunk. After missing the 2009 season, he played with Baltimore and Redskins before he was signed, released and resigned by the Pats in 2012.
Now the Patriots will see if they can rehabilitate Gordon, who never seemed capable of following rules with the Browns. He was so detached he refused to participate in any drills not directly connected to his responsibilities as a receiver.
But after losing Danny Amendola to the Dolphins and missing Julian Edelman for the first four weeks because of his league suspension, the Pats needed help. Through their first two games, Philip Dorsett is the only wide receiver with more than 10 receptions (11 for 110). But he had only five catches for 44 yards in Sunday’s loss to Jacksonville.