Talented but troubled receiver Josh Gordon may be suspended indefinitely by the NFL right now, but the Patriots still have him in their plans.
Gordon is set to become a restricted free agent if and when he is reinstated by commissioner Roger Goodell, and the Patriots have placed an original-round RFA tender on Gordon for the 2019 season, according to a league source.
The tender guarantees Gordon a salary and cap number of $2.025 million for one season if he signs with the Patriots. If Gordon signs with another team — highly unlikely, given his history of substance abuse and suspension — Article 9 of the collective bargaining agreement states that the Patriots would receive that team’s third-round pick, even though Gordon was drafted in the second round in 2012.
The Patriots also tendered their other restricted free agent, cornerback Jonathan Jones, according to a source. The Patriots placed a second-round tender on Jones, which guarantees him a salary of $3.095 million for 2019 if he signs with New England. If Jones signs with another team, the Patriots would receive that team’s second-round pick.
Assuming Gordon and Jones sign with the Patriots and are on the 53-man roster or injured reserve for at least six games in the upcoming season, they would become unrestricted free agents in 2020.
The RFA tenders represent nice pay bumps for both Gordon and Jones. Gordon made just $700,000 between the Patriots and Browns last year, and, thanks to his bevy of suspensions, it was the most money he has made in a year since his rookie season of 2012.
Jones, meanwhile, will earn nearly double what he made over his first three NFL seasons combined. An undrafted free agent out of Auburn in 2016, Jones made league minimum for three years, about $1.6 million in total.
Gordon has been suspended since Week 16 of the regular season but has been working out in Gainesville, Fla., where he also receives substance abuse and mental health treatment. Last week he posted a picture on social media showing him working out in TB12 gear.
Gordon seemed to fit in well in his first year with the Patriots and forged a good connection with Tom Brady, catching 40 passes for 720 yards and three touchdowns after being acquired in a trade in September. But he lasted just 11 games before earning another suspension for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy.
He will probably return to the Patriots at some point in the fall, and will make approximately $119,000 for every game he is on the 53-man roster in 2019.
The Patriots might need Gordon, because their receiver corps is thin. Julian Edelman is the only receiver currently on the roster who has caught an NFL pass, with Chris Hogan, Phillip Dorsett, and Cordarrelle Patterson all hitting free agency. The Patriots stood pat Monday while a handful of the top free agent receivers, including Devin Funchess and Adam Humphries, signed with other teams.
Jones, meanwhile, receives a nice pay raise after developing into a reliable slot cornerback and core special teams player. He was second on the Patriots with three interceptions, third with seven passes defended, and added 1.5 sacks.
Jones has not missed a game in three seasons, and he ives the Patriots valuable depth at cornerback. He started only five games in the regular season, but he played 64 of 65 snaps in Super Bowl LIII, leading the Patriots with eight tackles and adding a sack.
The Patriots are deep at cornerback, returning Stephon Gilmore, J.C. Jackson, Keion Crossen, Obi Melifonwu, Duke Dawson, and Jones. Veteran Jason McCourty is still an option to return as well. Eric Rowe is a free agent and his return seems less likely.