One of the most physically gifted wide receivers in the NFL is expected to be at Levi’s Stadium when the 49ers return to action on Nov. 11.
But he will not be wearing a 49ers uniform.
The challenge for defensive coordinator Robert Saleh and his unit got a lot more complicated Friday, as the Seattle Seahawks were awarded talented-yet-troubled receiver Josh Gordon off waivers from the New England Patriots.
Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said Gordon will not be available this weekend against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Gordon is likely to make his Seahawks debut on "Monday Night Football" against the 49ers in Santa Clara in what figures to be a key NFC West matchup.
49ers coach Kyle Shanahan and his offensive staff know how great Gordon can be. They also fully understand how unreliable he has been at every stop along his eight-year NFL odyssey.
The Seahawks were No. 28 on the waiver claim order, and Carroll expressed surprise that 27 teams passed on Gordon. The 49ers are last in the priority order, and it is unknown whether they put in a claim. My guess is they did not.
The 49ers have been searching for reliable answers at wide receiver. The young receiving corps has been up-and-down, and even veteran Marquise Goodwin has been someone who has been unable to establish any consistency. Although he was healthy and ready to play, Goodwin was among the 49ers’ seven inactive players on Thursday night in Arizona.
The club appears to have finally found a reliable wide receiver with the acquisition of Emmanuel Sanders in a trade with the Denver Broncos.
The 49ers are 8-0 and atop the NFC West. They do not need to take on the complication of a player who has proven he is not dependable. Sanders has been with the 49ers for 10 days, and he has already shown there is no reason to worry about anything connected with his performance. He has immediately fit into the locker room and made everyone around him better.
General manager John Lynch said he is hopeful that Sanders pushes the 49ers over the top.
“What we knew is he’d make us better,” Lynch said. “We’ve long admired Emmanuel, for his talent but also his will. He’s a guy who loves the game and you see that come through the screen in the way he plays.
“He plays with heart, he plays with passion and he’s very skilled at what he does. And I think he’s a great fit for what we do offensively.”
In 2014, Shanahan was offensive coordinator of the Cleveland Browns. He saw some of the good, but mostly bad, during his time with Gordon. In five games, Gordon was targeted 47 times, catching 24 passes for 303 yards.
Before the season even began, Gordon was arrested for driving while impaired. He had his season-long suspension reduced to 10 games after the NFL enacted a new policy on substances of abuse. But the Browns also suspended him for a violation of team rules.
He did not play in 2015 or ’16 due to violations of league rules.
The New England Patriots acquired him in a trade with Cleveland in September, but he did not last long on Bill Belichick's team. Gordon, 28, appeared in just six games before the Patriots placed him on injured reserve with a minor hamstring issue. They officially cut ties once he was healthy.
Yes, the 49ers could have certainly found a place on the field for a player as talented as Josh Gordon. But it’s doubtful they were willing to take the chance of messing with the good thing they have going.