On April 28, 2015, the headlines surrounding the Miami Dolphins suddenly focused not on how the team would finally utilize defensive end Dion Jordan, but rather turned to Jordan's third drug-related suspension of his short career, landing the former Oregon Duck on a year-long suspension. The Dolphins picked Jordan with the third-overall selection in 2013, trading up to add the talented defensive end-linebacker "tweener" to the team. Entering what should be his fourth year in the league, Jordan has played in 26 total games, while being suspended for 22; he has as many career sacks, three, as he does career suspensions.
In the offseason where other teams are deciding if they want to use their fifth-year option on 2013 first round draft picks, the Dolphins do not know if they will ever have the services of their 2013 first round pick again. In other words, it has not been a good start to what should have been a promising career.
Jordan's one-year suspension ends next week, assuming he applies for reinstatement and the league decides to grant it. There are a multitude of questions surrounding Jordan, with whom the team could have no contact over the past year. Does he want to play football? Is he in shape? Can he avoid the drug issues that have troubled him the first three years since being drafted? Will having his former college teammate, linebacker Kiko Alonso, help focus Jordan?
And those are not even the questions that involve the Dolphins themselves. Does Miami want Jordan back?
Jordan's suspension plays games with his contract, entering a legal term where the contract is said to have "tolled," which is essentially making it so the 2015 season did not happen, and keeping him in the third year of the contract. That would mean that Jordan's salary cap hit from 2015 - which was not applied due to his being suspended for the year - would become his salary cap hit in 2016 ($5.36 million), with his $3.22 million hit moving to 2017. (To further explain, the salary cap pro-rate still counted in 2015, which accounted for a $3.07 million cap number for the Dolphins, but no salary counts, and in 2017, because the signing bonus was already accounted for over the original four-years of the contract, there would be no signing bonus pro-rated amount in the final season of his contract, which is why his cap number goes down in 2017, while his salary and roster bonus increase.) Miami could elect to cut or trade Jordan once he is reinstated, or they could keep him, looking to find a role for a player who could still have potential, or, cynically, they could hold on to him, see if he fails another drug test, and then gain back the entire salary cap hit again.
Miami could use Jordan - if he is the player they all saw when they jumped up to pick him. He is an absolute freak or nature, with size and speed he should not have. He can get after a quarterback, or he can keep up with tight ends 40-yards down the field, and make it look easy. Jordan can be a pass rusher. He can be a linebacker. He could be both if he worked hard - or actually worked at all. Jordan has talent and potential, but a player cannot live on pure talent and potential in the NFL. He really cannot live on it when drug-related suspensions begin adding up.
The Cleveland Browns are dealing with a situation where wide receiver Josh Gordon cannot keep himself clean enough to get back into the league. A hugely talented receiver, Gordon has had multiple drug suspensions, and was eligible for reinstatement in February. Instead, he reportedly failed another drug test, and will continue to serve his suspension until at least August in an attempt to get 90 days of clean drug tests before he applies for reinstatement. The Browns seem willing to wait to see if Gordon will return, and there are said to be multiple teams interested in adding Gordon if the Browns decide, once he is reinstated, that they do not want to deal with him.
Gordon was a Pro Bowl player in 2013, along with being a First-Team All--Pro selection and leading the league in receiving yards. He has the talent to be a dominant receiver in the league, much like Jordan has the ability to be a great defensive player. The difference at this point is, Gordon has at least shown it on an NFL field. Jordan's three sacks, 46 tackles, and three passes defensed in 26 games, with one start, is not going to have teams beating down his door - and could make Miami feel he is more of a headache than they want.
The good news and bad news for Jordan could be the new coaching staff and front office personnel. He will be playing for a coaching staff and a front office that has not been disappointed multiple times by Jordan. However, he was not drafted by this regime, making them not as attached to him. Either situation could be the bigger truth, and it could lead to the Dolphins giving him another chance, or deciding to move on.
This article marks the fourth time a "Curious case of Dion Jordan" has been published on this site. The first article, in February 2015, explained, "Dion Jordan is absolutely a frustrating case, and absolutely more should be expected of him. The fact that we have not seen it does not mean we will not see it. Maybe even as early as this year."
The second edition in the "Curious case of Dion Jordan," published in March 2015, asked, "Is he a defensive end? Is he a linebacker? Should be be used to rush the quarterback? Should he drop back into coverage on players like Rob Gronkowski and Calvin Johnson? Where does Jordan belong?"
The third article, published in April 2015, saw Miami potentially souring on their third-overall pick from just two years earlier, "Jordan is now an 'issue' that has to be dealt with 'down the road.' What is the issue, though? Is it a love of the game thing, where Jordan simply does not mentally want to continue? Is it a drug issue again, one that, following two suspensions last year, could wind up putting Jordan on the shelf for a large portion of the season? Is there something else going on between Jordan and the Dolphins? Whatever the situation, it seems Miami is not fully behind their third-year defensive end anymore. Signs seem to point to the Dolphins looking to move on from a player who came to the team with so much anticipation, only to now appear ready to go out with a whimper."
The fourth edition of the continuing curious case of Dion Jordan has a simple question: Will he be a Dolphin?