Moss made own mess;Wideout's discontent sparked his departure
Randy Moss is now the property of the Minnesota Vikings. Again.
Whether the lanky receiver with the lengthy resume gets the contract extension he covets remains to be seen. But that, like Moss, is the Vikings' problem. Again.
The Patriots traded Moss, a seven-time Pro Bowler who scored 50 touchdowns in 52 games during his three-plus seasons in New England, to the Vikings yesterday for a reported 2011 third-round draft pick. The Vikings also get the Patriots' 2012 seventh-rounder.
Let the fun and games begin.
Moss is expected to suit up for the Vikings when they face the dreaded Jets and vaunted cornerback Darrelle Revis in New York Monday night. So he could immediately and immensely help his former club in the AFC East standings if he can avoid getting lost on the Island.
And Moss, barring an unexpected setback, will find himself back in Foxboro soon enough when the Vikings and Patriots meet on Halloween. Break out the afro wig, No. 81 jersey and assorted accessories for your chance to get shown on the big screens at Gillette Stadium.
You can't make this stuff up.
Moss has been seeing double coverage on the field and getting press coverage off it since the Vikings drafted him 21st overall in 1998. That won't change in his return to the Twin Cities.
It should make for great entertainment, particularly when watching from the safety of New England. That's the who and where.
Now for the why and what.
Specifically, why did the Patriots make this unusual, in-season move? What did they get? And what does it mean going forward?
Moss was in the final year of a three-year, $27-million contract he signed after helping the Patriots' offense put up staggering numbers in 2007. That was his first season in New England after being rescued from the Black Hole in Oakland. He campaigned last month for an extension to stay put, but to no avail.
The Patriots have taken care of Tom Brady, Vince Wilfork, Stephen Gostkowski, Leigh Bodden and Tully Banta-Cain this year, locking them up to the collective tune of $167 million. Moss saw those public signings and, we assume, privately stewed over ownership's failure to remove the uncertainty from his future.
While the Patriots said the right things - "Randy is a big part of our game plan," Brady insisted, while Bill Belichick quipped: "I think he adds a lot to our football team" - the team was obviously hesitant to put its money where its mouth was. And with good reason.
Moss had said on numerous occasions he didn't care how many passes he caught as long as the team won, something it did 40 of a possible 52 times during his stay. That's easy to say when the ball is regularly coming your way.
But espnboston.com reported yesterday Moss had a "heated exchange" with de facto offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien at halftime of Monday's win over the Dolphins. The issue during the "outburst" was Moss' displeasure with being targeted for just one pass to that point.
That would be one more ball than Moss saw in the second half as he finished without a catch for the first time since 2006.
Moss, targeted just three times the week before, had nine catches through four games for the 3-1 Patriots. That's the same number he had in his Patriots debut.
ESPN analyst Tedy Bruschi, the former Patriot who was a teammate of Moss' in 2007 and '08, did nothing to defuse the discontent angle during a "SportsCenter" broadcast laden with more Moss than a Louisiana swamp.
"What I'm hearing now is that in that locker room, there are some players frustrated with Randy, in that locker room there are coaches frustrated with Randy," Bruschi said.
Maybe Moss would have settled down and been a prototypical Patriot the rest of the season. Maybe he would have become a bigger distraction and infected a young locker room. Who knows?
What we do know is that although it's hard to put a price tag on peace of mind, the Patriots now have it. And they got a draft pick to boot.
A third-rounder might not seem like much for a sure-fire Hall of Famer, but it's one round higher than the Raiders got for sending Moss, now 33, to New England three years ago.
If you're big on "In Bill We Trust," then you'll just have to believe Belichick got the best deal he could. There's a also a belief, unsubstantiated as it is, the Patriots would have cut Moss if they couldn't find him a new home by the Oct. 19 trade deadline.
They would have ultimately reaped a compensatory pick when he signed somewhere else, but because Moss has been in the league 10-plus seasons, it wouldn't have been higher than a fifth-rounder in 2012.
The Patriots now have two picks in each of the first four rounds of next year's draft. They also own Oakland's No. 1, Carolina's No. 2, and Denver's No. 4, giving them the ammo to do just about anything they want come April - maybe even find themselves an explosive running back and a disruptive pass rusher.
As for the present, the Patriots are on their bye week and don't play again until Oct 17 when Baltimore visits Gillette Stadium. That buys them some time to get their Randy-less offense in order.
The good news is that shouldn't be as dramatic an adjustment as one would initially think.
After leaning heavily on a three-receiver set since Moss' arrival, this early season saw the Patriots start to morph back to the multidimensional look they featured during their glory days. That's been possible thanks to the rapid progress of second-year receiver Brandon Tate and rookie tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, and the sudden emergence of scatback Danny Woodhead.
Now the Patriots are banking heavily on those youngsters not regressing, and on Wes Welker - the new No. 1 wideout and a player who, ironically enough, figures to get an extension now with Moss out of the picture - from continuing to make progress from major knee surgery.
In the end, the Patriots probably aren't Super Bowl material this season whether Moss is here or not. But it's highly unlikely his absence is going to make anyone's heart grow fonder.
Now he's the Vikings' problem, er, property.
Rich Garven can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com
What they're saying about the Moss deal...
"Oh, you believed the three years of `happy talk' Belichick and Brady showered on Moss? ... Moss is the unstable, super-hot girl you never marry. You tell her what she needs to hear, you might even give her the code to your garage door, but you never commit."
-Jason Whitlock, foxsports.com
"The fate of the NFC North now rests in the Vikings' hands. They now have the talent, and are rid of all obstacles, to win this thing going away. Whether they do it is purely up to them."
-Kevin Seifert, espn.com
"What I'm hearing now is that in that ( Patriots) locker room there are some players frustrated with Randy, in that locker room there are coaches frustrated with Randy."
-Tedy Bruschi, ESPN
"I've had enough people make comments to me over the years that I believe handling Moss is a full-time job - and that was when he was wildly productive."
-Paul Perillo, Patriots Football Weekly
"Welcome back 84"
-Vikings.com front page, which also already had a section up for Moss jerseys
"From the Patriots end, I ask this: What are you thinking doing this? The Patriots are 3-1, tied for the AFC East lead, and they don't have a deep threat to replace (Moss)."
-Pete Prisco, cbssports.com
"I can't believe (Tom) Brady is all that thrilled to be losing one of the game's most feared weapons just four games into the 2010 season. ... Brady is the ultimate team player, so he's not likely to jump off the reservation and criticize Patriots head coach Bill Belichick for the move, but I'm guessing Brady's demeanor, tone and body language in the days ahead will provide hints to how he really feels."
-Don Banks, si.com
"All in all, the Vikings figured they had to make this deal because they'd already sold their souls to win this year. A third-round pick in 2011 to improve their chances to make the Super Bowl this year? In the end, because of the (Sidney) Rice uncertainty more than any other factor, they figured a third-rounder was a small price to pay for that last desperate bit of insurance.
-Peter King, si.com
"So let me get this straight: A coach who is feuding with a legendary quarterback and is dangerously close to losing his locker room just got dealt a star wideout who plays when he wants to play, sulks when he doesn't get the football, and once ran roughshod over the coach's predecessor?"
-Michael Silver, yahoo.com
"After Monday night's blowout victory in Miami, the Patriots surged back into top-contender status in a league that doesn't offer a clear-cut best team. After saying good-bye to Moss, they appear to have become more ordinary and a lot less threatening."
-Vic Carucci, nfl.com
"The simple truth is that the Patriots don't need Moss like they used to, if only because the priorities and objectives have changed. The Patriots probably are not going to the Super Bowl this year, not with that defense, and they already have secured Brady to a contract extension."
-Tony Massarotti, boston.com