The NFL's silence has been broken. Josh Gordon has been reinstated.
The oft-suspended receiver is eligible to return to the Patriots on Sunday, attend meetings and engage in conditioning work and individual workouts. He'll also be allowed to take part in practice, "subject to appropriate progress on clinical care and other arrangements," according to a statement released by the NFL.
"We are all rooting for Josh to succeed, both personally and professionally," Roger Goodell's statement read. "Everyone shares in that hope and will continue to support him to every extent possible. But as Josh acknowledged, ultimately his success is up to him."
There will be time to engage in the discussion as to whether or not it was right for Gordon to be reinstated, how the NFL went about acquiring the information it needed to make its decision, and how the Patriots will try to provide Gordon with the resources he needs as he makes his way back.
For now, we'll keep the discussion focused on the football aspect of Gordon's return and what it means to the team that signed his $2.025 million restricted free agent tender in April.
A return from his once-indefinite suspension for violating the league's substance-abuse policy means Gordon will provide the Patriots with an infusion of top-tier athletic talent to a receiver room that could use it.
Consider what Tom Brady said on Thursday, about 24 hours prior to Gordon's reinstatement, when he explained that the wideout position was more unsettled than it has been in previous years. Now, with Gordon, "settled" might not be apt. But "better" sure is.
For 11 games in 2018, Gordon helped buoy a start-and-stop Patriots passing game. He led the NFL in yards per reception (18.0) among all receivers who've played at least 50 percent of their team's snaps. The Patriots also averaged more than two points per game and more than 60 yards passing per game with Gordon in the lineup.
Brady has to be pleased to have another physical presence on the outside -- someone with whom he has game experience -- to pair with rookie N'Keal Harry and old reliable Julian Edelman. The quarterback averaged more than a full yard per pass attempt when Gordon was in uniform last season, and his passer rating was seven points better.
Now, in a season in which the Patriots will be without their top contested-catch threat Rob Gronkowski -- for now, at least -- they're getting back their second-best contested-catch threat in Gordon. Harry provides a similar skillset and the two tested as remarkably similar athletes ahead of their respective drafts. Undrafted rookie Jakobi Meyers has been a contested-catch standout in his own right throughout training camp, and according to Pro Football Focus, he made as many such catches last season for NC State as Harry did at Arizona State.
Now, if Brady gets into a tight spot where the coverage is good and pressure is creeping into the backfield, he'll have one more option to chuck it. Gordon may be his best option right now as far as that goes, and in a league where the coverage is as good as it's ever been, that has value.
"I'd say the coverage in this league is tight, regardless of the type of player or receiver that you are," director of player personnel Nick Caserio said after drafting Harry. "The coverage is tight. You're going to have to make some plays in some tight quarters. Receivers have to do it. Tight ends have to do it. I mean, James White, I know he plays running back, but he's involved in the passing game, [he has to do it].
"The windows are smaller, the catches are going to be more contested. If a player has the ability to do that, that's maybe one of his strengths. It was one of Rob [Gronkowski]'s strengths. He can make contested catches. Everybody has something that they do well . . . They have to maximize the attributes that they have."
Physicality. Beating defensive backs to the catch point. Creating yards after the catch. Those are Gordon's attributes. And as long as he's available, you can bet the Patriots will figure out ways to maximize them.
Gordon is a rare talent, and talent is something the Patriots receiver room has needed this summer.
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