Patriots Mailbag: What Are Josh Gordon’s Long-Term Options With New England?


Seven weeks into Josh Gordon’s New England Patriots tenure, the organization is still taking a very hands-on approach with the wide receiver.

Case in point: Gordon speaks to the media twice a week — once on Thursday or Friday and another directly after a game. Reporters are permitted to ask him anywhere from three to four questions during these sessions.

So, if you’re wondering why you keep reading the same stories from different outlets with quotes from Gordon, that’s why. Gordon spoke to reporters on Thursday this week. The first question was about the Tennessee Titans’ defense, the second was a follow-up on the Titans’ defense, the third was about his removal from the injury report, and the fourth was whether he’s practiced playing tight end.

You might have noticed everyone wrote about his answer to the third question. If the Patriots don’t loosen the reins on Gordon, then we, as reporters, might need to do a better job coordinating questions moving forward.

Let’s get into this week’s mailbag.

Do you see the Patriots signing Gordon long term after this season?
— @tmoney7297
Gordon is a restricted free agent after the season. Here’s what that means:

If the Patriots don’t sign Gordon to a long-term contract before free agency begins, then they can place a restricted free agent tender on him. There are three options for Gordon: A first-round tender, second-round tender or right of first refusal.

First-round tenders were valued at $4.149 million in 2018, and that likely will increase in 2019. Second-round tenders were valued at $2.914 million, and that also likely will increase in 2019. Low-level tenders were valued at $1.907 million, and guess what? That likely will increase in 2019, as well. If the Patriots don’t give Gordon a tender, then he would become an unrestricted free agent. The Patriots also could trade Gordon to another team, foregoing the restricted free agent process. That’s how the Miami Dolphins dealt Wes Welker to the Patriots.

If the Patriots give Gordon a first-round tender, then another team can sign him to an offer sheet, and that organization would have to give up a first-round pick to acquire him if New England chooses not to match that contract. Same goes for a second-round pick/tender. If the Patriots give him a right-of-first-refusal tender, then another team signing him to an offer sheet would have to give up no draft compensation if the Patriots choose not to match.

What makes the most sense for the Patriots is to give Gordon a first-round tender. Gordon would be a bargain at less than $5 million in 2019. It seems likely another team would sign Gordon to an offer sheet, however. It’s almost impossible to predict what kind of offer Gordon would receive, though, given his history of unreliability. If it’s not overly restrictive, the Patriots would be smart to match it.

The Patriots are in a win-win situation, though. They’ll either retain Gordon for one season or multiple years, or they’ll receive a high draft pick for his services.

Of course, this is all assuming Gordon stays clean off the field for the next four months. What’s really incredible is that the Patriots only had to give up a fifth-round pick for Gordon and a seventh-round selection. One season of Gordon is worth much more than a fifth-round pick alone. Multiple seasons of Gordon for a fifth is a pilferage, and one season of Gordon, plus a first-round pick, for a fifth-round selection is grand theft.

josh gordon is off the injury list so what you think about that brother dougie
— @michaelis4real
I think it’s a really good sign, Michael. The Patriots determined Gordon’s hamstring injury is no longer limiting him in practice. We’ve already seen some tremendously high-upside moments from Gordon. He’s a big-play threat who can snag the ball out of the air in contested situations. If that hammy is now 100 percent, then he could start to play even better.

Gordon has been one of the better NFL stories of 2018.

How do you see us using our new signees? (Mclellan and Melifonwu)
— @Cheags21
Let’s start with Albert McClellan. I think he enters the fray as the Patriots’ No. 4 linebacker behind Dont’a Hightower, Kyle Van Noy and Elandon Roberts. That role has been filled by Nicholas Grigsby, who was thrust into defensive duty when Hightower and Roberts went down in Week 8. Ideally, the Patriots don’t want that. Grigsby is better on special teams than defense. McClellan would be a more reliable defender. He’s also a solid special teams player who should fill in for Geneo Grissom.

We’ll see on Melifonwu. He’s only played 34 NFL snaps so it could be a while before we (if we ever) see him in defensive duty. Melifonwu has great size at 6-foot-4, 224 pounds. He has the athleticism to play cornerback or safety, and his best matchup might be on athletic tight ends. But Melifonwu has to prove himself in practice before any of that becomes a realistic possibility. Let’s wait to see if he’s still on the roster by the playoffs before we talk about him covering Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce in the AFC Championship Game, as some fans have broached.

#maildoug Has the D turned the corner, or was last week an aberration? Will be see Broadway Marcus Mariotta?
— @MrQuindazzi
It’s been an interesting season for the Patriots’ defense. They started strong, had some concerning performances but have turned the corner over the last few weeks.

It’s notable that while they rank 24th in total defense (yards per game) this season, they’re 11th in points allowed per game and 13th in Football Outsiders’ DVOA. They’re not sacking the quarterback as much as usual, but they are generating pressure and turnovers at a higher rate.

The Patriots’ defense has always done a good job of preventing the other team from scoring, even if it didn’t always “pass the eye test.” This year, they’re preventing points while also passing the eye test. We’ll see how long it lasts.

@DougKyed do you think Duke Dawson will be activated ??#MailDoug
— @Proudred_devil
Yes, and I’m actually pleasantly surprised they haven’t done it yet. The Patriots have promoted James Ferentz from the practice squad and signed McClellan, Melifonwu and offensive tackle Matt Tobin since Dawson was eligible to return. They’re taking swings at other positions and filling needs before activating Dawson. Cornerback isn’t currently a major need.

I still expect them to bring him off injured reserve before next week’s Nov. 14 deadline.

#MailDoug how does Jason McCourty’s coverage numbers this year compare to Butler’s numbers last year? What about the defense on a whole?
— @KenMcCartney
Jason McCourty, 2018: 29 catches on 51 targets, 418 yards, one touchdown, 90.2 passer rating, 6.5 cover snaps/target, 1.27 yards/cover snap, 11.3 cover snaps/reception

Malcolm Butler through nine games 2017: 33-53, 459 yards, four touchdowns, two interceptions, 99.5 passer rating, 6.6 cover snaps/target, 1.31 yards/cover snap, 10.6 cover snaps/reception

Malcolm Butler, 2017 total: 52-90, 698 yards, six touchdowns, two interceptions, 95.5 passer rating, 7.1 cover snaps/target, 1.09 yards/cover snap, 12.3 cover snaps/reception

They’re pretty similar. Jason McCourty makes a lot less money too.

How did you go from being in a touring band to Patriots beat writer
— @DanielVConnolly
It’s kind of a long story that I could discuss further at a later date, but I played guitar in a punk/hardcore band during and directly out of college. We went on various tours, including a full-U.S., in 2008 and 2009. I was a little burnt out after the two-month full-U.S. summer tour and figured I should probably put my degree to use, so I started taking writing a little more seriously. I worked random full-time jobs while writing heavily on the side (and during work — don’t tell my old bosses) for about three years before I started working at NESN in 2012. I got the beat role for the 2013 season.

Let’s go rapid fire.

If it were the early 2000s, which Patriots beat reporter would you most want to see get vaporized by Simon Cowell on American Idol?
— @BPhillips_SB
Mike Giardi. The answer is always Mike Giardi.

Once a healthy Michel and Gronk return would you agree that this is the deepest and most diverse set of weapons the Pats have had with Brady? I know everyone loves the 07 team but I think the White/Michel combo puts this group over the top.
— @jspinato8
This year’s team has more depth and versatility. The 2007 offense had better top-end players in Randy Moss and Wes Welker. I’d probably take this year’s set of weapons, but they won’t put up near the same stats as the 2007 squad because of injuries, mid-year acquisitions and a suspension.

He was beat once by Mike Daniels on 3rd & 7 on NE’s second drive of the game, but how would you grade Ted Karras’s performance filling in for Shaq Mason and are you comfortable with him moving forward if Shaq misses more time? #MailDoug
— @magnoliamountim
I thought Karras played well against the Packers. I wasn’t surprised. He’s always been a solid fill-in. I think the Patriots will be fine if he’s starting for Mason again this week.

#MailDoug Bold one, but that’s something I was thinking about for quite some time: is it the time to look for a new dominant-receiving TE? I mean, can Patriots still count on Gronk? Should BB start looking for someone more reliable, simply healthy?
— @rafalzochowski
I thought it was time at the 2018 NFL Draft.

When will Bentley return?
— @_wsak
Next season.

Which 2 players are most likely to return from IR?
— @Steve55M
Dawson and Burkhead. They’ve both already been designated.

Are we going to see Hollister at all again this season?
— @tmoney7297
Yes, but it’s been a disappointing season due to injuries for the athletic tight end.

Do you pronounce it Newtella or Natella?
— @DeadBoyChino
The first one. What insane person calls it nuh-tella.

Not Pats/Titans related but how happy are you that you don’t cover the Steelers and have to report on the LB fiasco ad nauseam? #maildoug
— @jessgabe8
So happy. The Le’Veon Bell situation seems like a nightmare to cover. Deflategate was worse, though.

Sony Michel is the best player ever.. this isn’t much of a question, just thought you should know that 🙂
— @jacob_scheck
Counterpoint: He’s not.

Are you excited for home alone rewatch szn? #MailDoug
— @June__NYC
I’m so excited that I can’t really get excited about anything else. First, it’s “Planes, Trains and Automobiles” szn, though.

How many buds/bugs for voting? #MailDoug
— @StephenPorier
A million buds for voting.

We love to compare current Pats teams to previous Pats teams, so let’s do that, which Brady/Belichick era team does this current team most resemble in your opinion? #MailDoug
— @JefFullerMyself
Maybe 2014? They both had early struggles. Neither team had a dominant defense, but it looks like the 2018 unit is rounding into shape. Stephon Gilmore is playing the role of Darrelle Revis. Both teams had a deep reserve of offensive talent.

Thumbnail photo via Greg M. Cooper/USA TODAY Sports Images

Source: NESN

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