By Matthew Geagan, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — The Patriots don’t play another football game for 11 days, and that’s a good thing for Josh Gordon’s injured left knee.
The Patriots receiver suffered a nasty knee injury late in the first half against the Giants on Thursday night, and did not return. His left knee bent in a way it shouldn’t as Gordon attempted to make a tackle following a Tom Brady fumble, and he did not return.
Maybe the Patriots were being overly cautious, considering Gordon had played in a football game just four days prior. NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport said he doesn’t think Gordon’s injury is a major one, but that’s just based on the fact that Gordon was riding the stationary bike on the sidelines.
If Gordon’s injury sidelines him for any amount of time, it would leave the New England receiving corps extremely thin, especially if Phillip Dorsett’s hamstring still isn’t ready when they face the New York Jets on Monday Night Football on Oct. 21. There’s optimism that Dorsett will be healthy, if if not, the Patriots could head to New Jersey with just Julian Edelman and rookies Jakobi Meyers and Gunner Olszewski as Brady’s options at wide receiver, with Matthew Slater a “break glass in case of emergency” option. As awesome as Slater is on special teams, it’s usually best to leave that glass unbroken.
The New England pass attack did pick things up in the second half against the Giants, as Brady finished the game with 341 yards and just 10 incomplete passes, but a lot of that had to do with the fact that the Patriots were playing the Giants. And even if Gordon’s injury isn’t as serious as it looked, the Patriots could still use some reinforcements at the position. That would make Brady a lot happier than he’s come off throughout the season.
So what is Bill Belichick to do? The Patriots are expected to be active on the trade market ahead of the Oct. 29 trade deadline, but they may not be able to wait around that long. Denver’s Emmanuel Sanders has been the hot target in the rumor mill, and he would certainly fit the New England system with his propensity to go over the middle. But he’s pretty good, and they’re probably not the only team interested in the veteran pass-catcher. If the Patriots wait too long, the price tag on Sanders will only go up. A.J. Green is staying in Cincinnati, and while Stefon Diggs is an intriguing — but very expensive — option out in Minnesota, it’s unlikely the Vikings will deal him.
As for options on the free agent market, there are a few. But there is a reason they’re all on the free agent market. Veteran Michael Crabtree is available after being released by the Arizona Cardinals in Week 2, but there’s the matter that the 32-year-old was released by the Arizona Cardinals. The Pats brought in Ryan Grant for a workout earlier this year, and will likely have a few more visit 1 Patriot Place in the near future.
Don’t expect a former Steelers/Raiders/Patriots receiver to be asked back, though. He took a shot at the owner, and that won’t fly in Foxboro, no matter how big of a tantrum Belichick and Brady may throw on that front. Brady can give Antonio Brown all the Instragram likes he wants, but Brown is not coming back to New England.
There’s also the little matter of cap space, in that the Patriots don’t have much. They cut Ben Watson to save room under the cap, giving them roughly $3.7 million to work with. With tight end Matt LaCosse also getting dinged up Thursday night, Watson may find himself back in a Patriots uniform very soon, reuniting Brady with his dear good friend.
The Patriots also have rookie N’Keal Harry on IR, and he’s expected to return when eligible in Week 10. But as we know, it’s never wise to expect too much out of a rookie receiver in the Patriots offense, even if Harry is the first receiver Belichick has ever drafted in the first round.
If Gordon and Dorsett heal up over the next 11 days, the receiver corps won’t be in terrible shape. Julian Edelman is still Julian Edelman, and their two active rookie receivers showed a little something against the Giants. But Thursday night also showed that the team is just an injury away from being thin at the position, and the Patriots would be wise to use the next week-plus to try and sure up the position. If nothing else, it may put a smile on Brady’s face.