Patriots Smartly Move On Without Moss

Receiver Randy Moss will now take his talents back to Minnesota after the Patriots traded him to the Vikings

The National Football League definitely is a “What Have You Done for Me Lately” entity and that fact was shown once again earlier this week.  In a surprising trade, the New England Patriots decided that indeed they could continue on in the 2010 NFL Season without former 7-time Pro Bowl receiver Randy Moss (2010 numbers of 9 receptions for 139 yards and 2 TDs on 22 targets). 

The Patriots shipped their malcontent receiver and a 7th rounder to the receiver-desperate Minnesota Vikings for a 3rd round pick in 2011.  One of the bigger surprises was that Moss (33) was even traded in the first place because we all know that typically NFL teams would rather keep a player around for roster protection (i.e. injuries), even if they are a pain in the butt. 

The NFL’s trading deadline is next week on October 19th, but usually the league’s greatest trading activity is around their yearly draft that occurs each April.  However right now picks are more important than free agent veteran-type players to the Pats as they try to reshape their team– drafted 12 players in 2010.  Moss had sulked his way through the first four weeks of the season and clearly was more concerned with his current contract situation – being paid $6.4M in 2010 which is the last year of a 2007 deal – than playing hard on the field. 

After a brief hiatus, “Bad Randy” was back from Oakland and had now reemerged in Foxboro, Mass.  There were several instances where Moss seemed uninterested and loafed it on patterns preferring to only show his Hall of Fame ability only when he wanted to.  Not even the presence of quarterback Tom “Captain America” Brady – currently ranked 2nd in the NFL in quarterback rating (109.0) — could get Moss back in line this time.

Though some thought Patriots head coach Belichick’s benching of Moss, Derrick Burgess, and Adalius Thomas — both are also no longer in New England —  in late 2009 for missing meetings due to “bad weather” was long over. Week 1 of the 2010 season should have been everything Patriots’ fans needed to see that it was going to be a long season if Moss was around.  The Patriots won a hard fought 38-24 win over the Cincinnati Bengals, but after the game Moss only wanted to talk about himself.

In a rambling new conference, he said, “I think around here in the New England area, a lot of people don’t want to see me do good. And the reason why, I don’t know … Sometimes you want your boss to tell you you’re doing a good job. If you’re doing a good job and think you’re doing a good job, you want to be appreciated. I really don’t think that, me personally, that I’m appreciated … I’m not here to start any trouble. I am here to play out the last year of my contract.”  The final straw had to have been a much-publicized halftime shouting match with Patriots QB’s coach Bill O’Brien in Week 4.

The trading of Moss showed that New England no longer is going to try the “All-Star” route -– came close to winning it all in 2007 after starting the season 18-0 with a free agent laden team before losing the Super Bowl to the New York Giants -– in building their team.  The last two seasons have ended with identical 11-5 records in regular season.  But both seasons also had disappointing endings – No playoffs in 2008 and an embarrassing lopsided home playoff loss to the Baltimore Ravens in 2009. You can see that now New England have modeled themselves as a “team” oriented group which goes back to their 2001 “team first” Super Bowl winning version. 

Belichick in re-tooling his team is leaning heavily on character veterans (i.e. Brady and WR Wes Welker) and building through the draft.  Already this season has shown draft pick dividends with players like WR Brandon Tate, DB Patrick Chung, TE Aaron Hernandez, and others making solid contributions.

Currently, the Patriots are 3-1 and are tied for the top of the AFC East with the New York Jets.  And their latest effort on Monday Night produced a solid 41-14 drubbing of the Dolphins, showed New England can get contributions from a variety of players — 3 Special Teams touchdowns.  Did I mention that Moss went catchless in his last game in Patriots’ Red, White, and Blue.  Even though the former three-time Patriots’ captain had put up some huge numbers — catching 259 passes for 4,904 yards and 50 touchdowns in 51 games — and returned to his Pro Bowl form in New England, it was the right decision to move-on from a selfish player who clearly did not want to be there any longer. 

Now the torch has been passed to players like Welker, Tate, Julian Edelman, and Danny Woodhead to fill-in for the sometimes motivated Moss.  There have even been whispers that the Patriots may go back to the future in recreating their “No Name” receiving corps from their former three Super Bowl winning teams.  There have been murmurs that New England is trying to trade for former big game hero Deion Branch, who has become a high-priced spare part in Seattle, before the October 19th deadline.

The other side to the trade is that Moss will now take his immense talent to the Minnesota Vikings (1-2) who greatly need a game-breaker.  Last season’s breakout receiver for the Vikings, Sidney Rice, is still battling a hip injury that could possibly keep him out until late November and there hasn’t been many other options for Vikings quarterback Brett Favre — 2 touchdowns and 6 interceptions in 3 games.  Moss had been a player that Favre had coveted going back to when the two opposed each other in the NFC North. 

Favre even unsuccessfilly lobbied for the Green Bay Packers to rescue Moss from Oakland.  And now who blame No. 4 for wanting more weapons in Minnesota besides All-World running back Adrian Peterson –- currently 3rd in the NFL in rushing yards (392).  A receiving corps led by the likes of Percy Harvin (migraines), Bernard Berrian, Greg Lewis, Hank Baskett, and Greg Camirilo has produced only 27 receptions for 266 yards and 1 TD in three games so far including two loses.

But make no bones about it…. this is a gamble as Moss brings a Hall of Fame resume — 935 receptions for 14604 yards, 15.6 ypr average, and 151 TDS —  and some much-needed pedigree to pedestrian receiving corps, but you have to wonder exactly how hard will he play at the tail end of his career.  Rumored to want a deal on par with Dolphins WR Brandon Marshall — five years, $50 million dollars, $24M Guaranteed — 29 M in first 3 years.

For now Moss -– had caught 574 passes for 9,142 yards and 90 touchdowns his past Minnesota career — will get his familiar No. 84 Vikings jersey back and Favre will get the double-coverage worthy weapon that he has greatly desired for his 1-season unretirement.  “He can still go downtown and get the football, which is a stand-alone factor,” Vikings head coach Brad Childress said. “He could sprain his toe here sometime coming up, and you could say that he’s 33, it’s old age. But there’s always risk-reward. I don’t necessarily see this as boom or bust. I think he’s got some more football in him.”

“Moss in  the Twin Cities 2” will all begin this Monday when the Vikings take on the host New York Jets on ESPN and you know that Rex Ryan’s defense led by All-Pro corner Darrelle Revis will be waiting.

 

Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and Sports Journey Network , who is also an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)

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