On Monday, Bill Belichick reminded us of an evergreen truth by New England Patriots will take chances on players with talent, no matter their baggage. In Gordon's case, the trade reminds us that the Patriots believe in "The Patriot Way" so strongly that they don't care about what may have happened in the past.: The
We've seen this time and time again, and the Patriot Dynasty just rolls on. And yes, it must be said: It's because everyone "does their job." For the players that work out in New England, it's because all that they needed was a bit of structure. If you're good enough, Belichick will carve out a niche for you. And if you do your job, you can have a new lease on your career, or at least leave having achieved some level of team-wide success.
Here's a look at seven castoffs from other teams who the Patriots picked up and turned into treasure.
For Moss, talent was never a question. One of the most physically gifted players in NFL history, Moss spent the first seven years of his career with the Vikings, going All-Pro in three of them. He was traded to the Raiders, where Oakland's struggles, simply put, didn't motivate him. Although Moss broke 1,000 yards in his first season with the Raiders, he had a career-low 48.8 percent catch percentage. The next season, that plummeted to 43.8 percent, and he had just 553 yards. All of this came with a visible lack of effort, and he was traded to the Patriots for a fourth-round pick in the 2007 draft.
In his first season with the Patriots, Moss' numbers skyrocketed. He caught 95 passes for 1,493 yards and 23 touchdowns and was named All-Pro in 2007. The Patriots went undefeated in the regular season before losing to the New York Giants in the Super Bowl. After that (almost) banner year, Moss spent two more seasons with the Patriots, breaking 1,000 yards both times. In 2010, however, the honeymoon phase ended. Moss was unhappy that he hadn't been offered an extension after signing a three-year deal two seasons earlier, and he was traded to the Vikings. He retired for the first time after the 2010 season.
The Patriots did the unthinkable and traded for a physical running back once he turned 30. Prior to the 2004 season, the Pats traded a second-round pick to the Bengals for Dillon. He brought 8,061 career rushing yards, but to most people, that just looked like mileage, especially after rushing for just 541 yards in 2003. With the Patriots, Dillon rushed for 1,635 yards in his first season, averaging 4.7 yards per carry -- his best average since his rookie year. The Patriots won Super Bowl 39.
Dillon suffered injuries in 2005, and in 2006 he split carries with Laurence Maroney. After 345 carries in 2004, his numbers stayed solid but took a hit. The Patriots released Dillon in 2007, with the two parties having helped each other to a ring. Dillon is arguably the best back who Belichick ever used, and Belichick knew it. He took Dillon in 2004 with the intention of heavy usage, but what he got was likely more than even he could have hoped for.
Seau was going to retire before he joined the Patriots, but he wasn't even away from the game for a week before they pulled him back in. Seau was with the Chargers for 13 years, where he built a Hall of Fame-caliber career. He spent three seasons with the Dolphins, missing half of his second season with the team and starting only five games in his third year. Seau was another part of the 2017 team, and a major part of it at that. Despite starting only four games, he played in all 16, and finished the year with three interceptions.
Seau played two more seasons with the Patriots, but he was active for just seven games throughout the 2009 season. He retired as a Patriot at the end of the 2009 season.
Welker was another new addition to the undefeated 2007 team, and he had the added bonus of coming from within the division. Welker caught 96 passes for 1,121 yards in two seasons with the Miami Dolphins, who then traded him to the Patriots for second- and seventh-round draft picks. In his first season with New England, Welker caught 112 passes for 1,175 yards and eight touchdowns. He's arguably the best player of the Belichick era to not win a Super Bowl.
Welker developed a reputation as the embodiment of "The Patriot Way." He was a precise route runner with sure hands who became a mainstay in the Patriots' offense. He broke 100 catches five times with the Patriots, made four straight Pro Bowls between 2008 and 2011, and he was named All-Pro in 2009 and 2011. Welker shattered Troy Brown's franchise reception record, catching 672 passes in just 93 games. He holds the franchise record for most consecutive games with a catch, making at least one in every game he played in New England. Eventually, he and the Patriots parted ways when the two sides couldn't agree on a contract. He joined the Broncos in 2013, and eventually retired as a member of the Rams in 2015.
After spending four seasons with the Buccaneers, Talib was traded to the Patriots midway through 2012 after a drug test found that he'd taken Adderall and would be suspended for four games. Talib already had some baggage before the drug test -- a fight with another Bucs rookie at the rookie symposium in 2008, a suspension for allegedly beating a taxi driver in Florida in 2010 and various on-the-field personal fouls. But the Patriots traded a 2013 fourth-round pick for Talib and the Buccaneers' seventh-rounder.
With the Pats, Talib had a pick-six in his debut upon his return from the suspension, and the Patriots made it to the 2012 AFC Championship Game with Talib starting opposite Kyle Arrington. The Patriots saw enough from Talib to sign him for another year for $4.86 million. In his next season, Talib had four interceptions and 13 passes defended in 13 starts. He was named second-team All-Pro, and his absence in the AFC Championship Game was felt against the Broncos. Talib was knocked out of the game by Wes Welker, and the Broncos gained 400 yards through the air, the most the Patriots allowed all season. Talib left after the 2013 season to join the Broncos when he and the Patriots couldn't agree on a contract.
It's no accident that some of Blount's best seasons were on the Patriots. He's the perfect player for Belichick. A player who fits an extremely specific role, Blount joined the Patriots via trade after getting just 41 carries with the Buccaneers in 2012, Doug Martin's breakout year. Blount had some additional baggage, having gone undrafted after punching a player when he was in college with Oregon.
Blont's job with the Patriots, generally speaking, amounted to run straight, run hard. In a league that is increasingly demanding of its running backs in the passing game, Blount was targeted out of the backfield five times in 2013, four times in 2014, seven times in 2015 and eight times in 2016. The Eagles followed that model, targeting him eight times even after Darren Sproles went down.
Of Blount's 18 touchdowns in 2016, 13 of them came inside of five yards. He hardly played in the Super Bowl against the Falcons, as the Patriots were playing catch-up nearly the entire the game.
Hogan is another receiver who came from within the AFC East. When Hogan was a restricted free agent with the Bills, the Patriots signed him to a three-year offer sheet worth $12 million. Not only did the Bills turn down Hogan's offer sheet, they didn't get anything in the draft, since they had signed him to the minimum tender.
Hogan has emerged in an eminent threat in the Patriot offense, and he's most often used vertically. In his first season with the Patriots in 2016, Hogan averaged an outrageous 17.9 yards per catch. He caught 38 passes for 680 yards, and he was outstanding in the playoffs. In the AFC Championship Game against the Steelers in particular, Hogan caught nine passes for 180 yards and two touchdowns. In 2017, his season was shortened by a shoulder injury. Though that impacted his stats, Hogan returned in time for the playoffs, and he was huge in the Patriots' Super Bowl loss to the Eagles, catching six passes for 128 yards and a touchdown. While the verdict is still out on Hogan, he's been a key weapon for Brady since joining New England.
... and some failures
There's another reason that people take note of the Patriots' successes: The failures don't last long. The Patriots have made a few questionable trades, such as trading Logan Mankins to the Buccaneers for Tim Wright. That trade was in 2014, and the Patriots released Wright in 2015. The Redskins traded Albert Haynesworth to the Patriots for a fifth-round pick in July 2011, and he was released in November. They traded a pair of late-round picks for Chad Johnson, who was on the team for about 11 months. They briefly had Kenny Britt and Michael Floyd. There are plenty of examples of these deals not working out, but the Patriots know when to cut their losses. Even players like Dillon, Moss and Seau were released when they started to show their age.
It's been 18 years of the Brady-Belichick "dynasty," and some people may be tired of hearing about "The Patriot Way" and "Do Your Job." But these expressions are there for a reason. Josh Gordon could go on to be a key contributor in whatever run the Patriots are looking to make this year. For a fifth-round pick, he could just as easily be off the team by next summer. The thing that makes the Patriots different from some other teams is that they know when to give up on a project. Gordon's talent, to them, was worth taking a chance on. Only time will tell if that chance pays off for a player with Gordon's talent ... and baggage.