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Why Chiefs wide receiver Josh Gordon might not be on the roster bubble

Last year’s in-season pickup didn’t impress us very much, but there is evidence he could make the 2022 squad.

Kansas City Chiefs v Las Vegas Raiders Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

Wednesday’s early-July exercises on ESPN included each of their NFL beat writers picking a veteran player that could be on each team’s 2022’s roster bubble. There were some interesting choices. For the Denver Broncos, Jeff Legwold selected outside linebacker Malik Reed. Paul Gutierrez picked Las Vegas Raiders defensive end Clelin Farrell, while Lindsey Thiry offered up Los Angeles Chargers running back Joshua Kelley.

For the Kansas City Chiefs, longtime beat scribe Adam Teicher chose a wide receiver who joined the team only last season.

Kansas City Chiefs: WR Josh Gordon

The top four at wide receiver will be difficult for Gordon to crack after the Chiefs signed JuJu Smith-Schuster and Marquez Valdes-Scantling and drafted Skyy Moore and with Mecole Hardman returning. The Chiefs are unlikely to retain Gordon as a fifth or sixth wide receiver without him helping on special teams, so the math doesn’t look good for him.

Takeaway

Teicher is being consistent: in his 53-man roster projection from June 21, Gordon’s absence was the headline. (At that time, he predicted five wideouts would make the team: Smith-Schuster, Valdes-Scantling, Hardman, Moore and Daurice Fountain). If the Chiefs decide to keep five wideouts on their initial 53-man roster, Teicher will probably be right: special-teams ability is likely to be a substantial part of the equation — and Gordon’s roster spot would certainly be at risk.

Nor is Teicher the only one who thinks so. On Wednesday, Spotrac listed Gordon among its NFL roster-bubble candidates.

However, under head coach Andy Reid, Kansas City typically goes into Week 1 with six wideouts. We’ll agree that Smith-Schuster, Valdes-Scantling, Hardman and Moore look like locks at the position. But with so much uncertainty surrounding such a critical position (especially in an offense led by quarterback Patrick Mahomes) it just doesn’t seem likely that this would be a position where Kansas City would choose to skimp. If the Chiefs decide to go with six, one of the last two could easily be a player who is not on special-teams coordinator Dave Toub’s pocket list.

Then there are the moments that have stood out during offseason workouts — which our Matt Stagner covered in his Market Movers column on June 20.

Josh Gordon: Perhaps the biggest surprises of the last couple of weeks have been the persistent reports that Gordon has been looking better — and making plays. Given that he fell out of favor last season — and that the team added a number of wide receivers who are likely above him on the depth chart — he should be considered a long shot. (He also left one minicamp session early with what appeared to be a minor injury). But Gordon has proven that he has the natural ability to play the position, so perhaps we can’t count him out just yet. Watch to see if he still stands out in St. Joseph, because he could force a tough decision on which receivers this team wants to keep.

Among the reports to which Matt was referring was this one from our man-on-the-scene Pete Sweeney.

Yes... Gordon was unimpressive over the 12 games he played in 2021, collecting only a dozen targets that he turned into five catches for just 32 yards. But it has also been clear that the Chiefs haven’t given up on him.

“You guys were out there,” head coach Andy Reid told reporters after June 9’s OTA session. “You could see that he’s running better [and] catching better. He’s working hard at all of this. He’s a good kid and he’s smart, so that helps. That’s the way he’s approached this whole thing — and he’s getting reps — so he can get himself back where he wants to be.”

At the time, Reid offered a possible explanation for Gordon’s lack of production last season.

“It was kind of getting back in the flow of playing the game,” he said. “And then you’re throwing a whole new offense in the middle of it all — and he has to pick that up. And probably work himself into playing shape — just getting himself back.

“It seemed like it was moving fast for him, but now it’s kind of slowed down. It looks like he’s doing better after the catch; when he catches the ball, he’s able to maneuver around in space. I think he’s lost a little bit of weight. He was pretty big when he got here — he’s a big guy anyways — but I think he dropped a little bit of weight there too.”

So will Gordon be on the roster bubble? It’s certainly possible, but it could largely depend on factors beyond his own ability to play. And like Matt said: we’d be smart not to count him out.

Poll

Will Josh Gordon be on the roster bubble after training camp?

This poll is closed

  • 54%
    Yes
    (1664 votes)
  • 26%
    No — he’ll easily make the team
    (800 votes)
  • 19%
    No — he has no chance to make the team
    (605 votes)
3069 votes total Vote Now