Never say never in the NFL. Randy Moss is going back to the team that made him a first-round pick in the 1998 NFL Draft.
As FOXSports.com’s Jay Glazer reported, the veteran receiver was traded from the New England Patriots to the Minnesota Vikings in exchange for a 2011 third-round pick.
Here’s an overview of how the trade impacts both teams from a football standpoint.
The Impact For Minnesota
With starting WR Sidney Rice likely several more weeks away from being able to play after having hip surgery back in late August, the Vikings had to do something to fill his void. They tried to pry WR Vincent Jackson from the San Diego Chargers but were not successful. The remaining options left within their 53-man roster clearly weren’t good enough.
What Moss will give them is a badly needed downfield passing threat, which was missing once Rice had his surgery. Say what you want about Moss, but he does one thing very well, and that’s being able to run past defenders. See the game against the New York Jets where he ran by CB Darrelle Revis as an example.
And with Moss in the fold, the coaches can move second-year WR Percy Harvin back in the slot where he’s more comfortable. He simply is better off inside where he can work against the smaller defensive backs. And Moss’ presence should help open more opportunities for TE Visanthe Shiancoe, who was receiving more attention from defenses with Rice out of the lineup.
RB Adrian Peterson was already off to a fast start, but it will be interesting to see how defenses line up against him going forward. They must pay attention to Moss, something that they didn’t have to do once Rice was gone. If they load up the box with an extra defender, Moss could see looser coverage on the outside. Having Moss on the field could help open up better rushing lanes for Peterson.
Should Moss sign a contract extension, it’s possible the Vikings release inconsistent WR Bernard Berrian next year. Berrian, who is signed through 2013, is scheduled to earn $3.9 million in 2011. He’s scheduled to earn a whopping $6.9 million in 2012 and $7.9 million in 2013. Rice is in the final year of his rookie deal. Moss is in the final year of his contract and is carrying a $6.4 million base salary for 2010. The Vikings will be responsible for $4.894 million of it.
The Impact for New England
With Moss gone, second-year WR Brandon Tate will become a bigger part of the passing game for the Patriots.
Tate, who was a third-round pick in last year’s draft, only appeared in two games as a rookie because of knee problems. Tate suffered a torn ACL and MCL in his right knee during his senior season at the University of North Carolina and he never could quite get his knee right last season. While Tate was a third-round pick, he could have been selected even higher, sources said, had he not flunked a drug test during the NFL Combine of 2009.
Tate already has established himself as one of the NFL’s best young kickoff returners in just his second season, but the expectations are even much higher for him as a receiver. He has better than average speed and possesses good hands. However, whether he can draw double teams like Moss could remains to be seen. The true test of an outside receiver is if he can attract the attention of defenses each week.
And don’t think the absence of Moss won’t have an impact on the success of WR Wes Welker. Opposing defenses now won’t have to be concerned with a true deep threat, so Welker will probably see more double teams than ever.
And that’s still the issue. Can New England withstand the loss of a true deep threat in Moss?
Tate will line up mostly on the outside with Welker in the slot. New England needs to find another outside receiver who can play right away. After examining their depth chart, it appears that they might not have one. However, one player to keep an eye on is third-round pick Taylor Price. The rookie ran in 4.4’s at the NFL Combine, but whether he has good enough functional football speed remains to be seen. He’s been inactive for all four of New England’s games.
While New England got what it thought was good value for the 33-year old receiver, the Patriots may not have another option on the outside, an issue they might not be able to address until next season. It’s hard to run a shotgun spread offense without two quality outside receivers. And because of that, it wouldn’t be surprising to see New England look into acquiring another receiver by the Oct. 19 trade deadline.