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Of Course the Patriots Traded for Josh Gordon

But that doesn’t mean Gordon is the next Randy Moss. As New England’s history shows, these types of high-profile signings are more likely to disappoint than not.

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The New England Patriots have traded for Cleveland wide receiver Josh Gordon, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

The trade comes less than a month after Gordon, who missed the first three weeks of training camp attending to his mental and physical health, returned to the Browns. Gordon, who has struggled with alcohol, Xanax, cocaine, marijuana, and codeine abuse in the past, was suspended from the league for multiple violations of the NFL’s substance abuse policy for more than 34 months between 2014 and his return in 2017. On Saturday, Gordon reportedly showed up to the Browns’ training facility “a little tardy” and “not himself,” complaining of a pulled hamstring; according to Cleveland.com’s Mary Kay Cabot, the Browns felt they couldn’t rely on his sobriety.

The Patriots desperately need help on the outside. They’re currently relying on Chris Hogan, Phillip Dorsett, and gimmick master Cordarrelle Patterson at the shallowest receiver group in football. Julian Edelman is set to return from a suspension for violating the league’s PED policy in Week 5, but he is 32 and tore his ACL last season. New England has tried to plug their outside holes with Browns castoffs before, including Kenny Britt last year and Corey Coleman just one week ago (coincidentally, Coleman was released on Monday to make room for Gordon). Now New England adds Gordon, who is 27, stands 6-foot-3, and runs with a sprinter’s breakaway speed. He’s the only player with back-to-back 200-yard receiving games in NFL history, and he led the NFL in receiving yards at 22 years old while playing in just 14 games and catching passes from Jason Campbell, Brandon Weeden, and Brian Hoyer.

It’s tantalizing to imagine what Gordon can do with Tom Brady (and Gordon is reportedly healthy enough to play in Week 3), but looking at New England’s history, Gordon is far more likely to be released in any given week than be a Randy Moss–like missing link. The Patriots are exhaustive when filling out the margins of their roster. They turn over every rock, sign every slot receiver, and offer one-year deals to any veteran on the verge of retirement. Sometimes that means the Patriots scoop up a discounted player with “baggage” and transform them into the league-leader in touchdowns, like they did with Moss and LeGarrette Blount. Far more often, the Patriots get absolutely nothing from the players they pull out of the scrap heap and everyone forgets it ever happened, like the time they signed Chad Johnson (who lasted one season), Albert Haynesworth (six games), Torry Holt (zero games), Reggie Wayne (11 days), or the soon-to-be-forgotten James Harrison (one playoff run).

Gordon’s situation isn’t quite the same as that of any of the above players, but the Patriots will likely view his employment in a similar fashion. The moment he shows up late for a meeting, stops running on a route, or does anything else that doesn’t exemplify “The Patriot Way,” Gordon is likely gone. His receiving prowess is based more on his athleticism than crisp route running, which already makes him a slight misfit in New England’s technical scheme. But the Patriots are betting that he can contribute, and they shelled out a higher pick than they usually do in these situations, which speaks to Gordon’s upside. Yet while Gordon’s potential feels unlimited, most of New England’s bets don’t pay off.