Impending free agent wide receivers Josh Gordon and Martavis Bryant are still indefinitely suspended by the NFL, but barring a setback, the duo could take steps toward returning to play soon.
According to a report from NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero, although there is no firm date, if they follow their treatment plans, the NFL Players Association is expected to lay the groundwork for their reinstatement in May.
Gordon stepped away from the New England Patriots in late December when he was facing an fifth suspension for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. The 27-year-old has a well-documented history with drugs and alcohol and reportedly failed multiple tests for multiple substances.
When healthy, Gordon was a fairly dangerous weapon after coming over in a midseason trade from the Cleveland Browns. He picked up 720 yards over 11 games for the Pats, including two games with at least 100 yards and four games with at least five catches.
Bryant, 27, was suspended about a week before Gordon after rumors had swirled about an impending suspension since at least June. He had previously missed all of the 2016 season due to a separate suspension and was punished this time for reportedly violating the terms of his reinstatement.
After briefly being cut by the Oakland Raiders, who traded a third-round pick to acquire him in April, Bryant underwhelmed in silver and black. Bryant only played in eight games — starting in two — and picked up 266 yards on 19 receptions with no scores.
What do Gordon and Bryant’s futures hold?
Gordon has long been considered one of the most talented receivers in football since he led the league with 1,646 yards as a 22-year-old in 2013 despite missing the first two games of the season for — you guessed it — violating the league’s substance-abuse policy. However, he has only accumulated 1,375 yards in the five years since then because of a bevy of suspensions.
The Patriots were able to win a sixth Super Bowl without Gordon — although he will still receive a ring — but they are already short on skill position players before considering the possible retirement of Rob Gronkowski. Because Gordon is a restricted free agent, they will have options to keep him.
The Pats can offer Gordon a first-round tender, second-round tender or right of first refusal. Although the values will likely rise, those tenders were came in at $4.149 million, $2.914 million and $1.907 million, respectively, in 2018.
If another team signs Gordon after receiving either of the first two tenders, the Patriots could decline to match and receive the corresponding draft pick from the signing team. With the right of first refusal, the Patriots would still have the option of matching but would not receive compensation if they chose to let him go. Considering a healthy and active Gordon can be very productive, especially for less than $5 million, the Pats seem likely to offer the first-round tender.
Bryant, on the other hand, is an unrestricted free agent, so the Raiders cannot offer him a tender. As with Gordon, getting healthy is the top priority in this situation, but he remains talented enough to crack a roster if things go well.
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