The trade that came out of nowhere for most and got hot last night finally happened this morning, and Randy Moss and a 2012 seventh-round pick were shipped to the Minnesota Vikings for a third-round pick. As things were being worked through, the news that a trade was in the works for a couple of weeks came to the forefront, as well as the news of Moss asking for a trade after Week One. There are many different ways to look at this trade and different angles to take. Did Moss force his way out? Are the Patriots a better or worse team without Moss? Did the Patriots get enough value in exchange for Moss? Here are some of the events as we know them (or have been reported) and my take.
While Moss did ask for a trade after Week One, he would have been happy signing a new deal with the Patriots and finishing his career in New England. Some of his behavior at getting towards that end may have led to his trade however. It started in the offseason when Moss spoke publicly about his feelings that the Patriots would not extend his contract and that 2010 would be his last year in New England. He also said that the Patriots, “Don’t pay,” so there was no way that he would be back with the Patriots. Moss was curiously not selected as a captain after serving in that role for the previous two seasons. His 16-minute diatribe about getting paid after the Week One victory over Cincinnati was not looked upon favorably by the Pats, and Moss was taken aside and talked to. After that incident, Moss stated that he wanted to retire a Patriot and that he was done talking. In the Week Two loss to the Jets, Moss was targeted 10 times but caught only 2 balls, one being an amazing TD reception. Darrelle Revis, who in the past has called Moss a “slouch,” said today that Randy “put his foot on the brake” in the second half of the Jets game, insinuating that Moss didn’t play hard the whole game.
During the National Anthem Monday night against the Dolphins, Moss tried psyching up his teammates, which they looked uncomfortable doing during the National Anthem. That was certainly a questionable move. Then, according to Mike Reiss of ESPNBoston.com, Randy Moss got in a heated argument with QB coach and offensive play-caller Bill O’Brien regarding O’Brien making adjustments. Moss had only been thrown the ball once in the first half, and that was on a Brady audible (the fake spike), that he dropped. In the second half, Moss was not targeted and did not catch a pass. On the plane ride home, Belichick tried to talk to Moss and he was reportedly unresponsive. According to former Patriot and current ESPN analyst Tedy Bruschi, some of the players in the Patriots’ locker room were getting frustrated with Moss’ antics, and that while he was saying the right things in the media, he was a negative presence in the locker room. “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,” said Bruschi. “Internally, he’s turning into the same player he was at the end of his tenure in Minnesota, in Oakland, and now in New England.” A must-see video of Bruschi talking about Moss and the players is posted here and you really should check it out. Did Moss force his way out? It’s certainly possible.
Are the Patriots a better or worse team without Moss? The answer may depend on how you view “team.” The Patriot offense will probably not put up the eye-popping numbers we have grown accustomed to the past few years. The eye-popping fantasy football numbers that got the team zero championships. The Patriots may be a better “team” in overall atmosphere, chemistry, and possibly post-season success. The move towards the Patriot offense of the championship years, the grind-it-out, ball control, throw-to-whoever’s-open offense started this offseason. The Patriots diversified their pass catchers, selecting two quality tight ends, drafting Brandon Tate last year and Taylor Price this year, and the development of Julian Edelman. Last season, the Patriots would not have survived this trade and probably would not have made it. Now, it’s quite possible that they have the variety of weapons to get it done.
Many have said, including myself several times on this site and in my NFL.com pieces, that the Patriots needed to return to that type of offense and not rely on deep-to-Moss so much. We saw what that lead to Week 2 in the Meadowlands. The Patriots won three championships without Moss or a Moss-type receiver. Digging deeper, when they did have Moss, he didn’t exactly light it up in the post season. In four post season games with the Patriots, Moss caught 12 balls for 142 yards and 1 touchdown. That’s 3 catches for 36 yards per game. Hardly an impact at the most critical time of the year. But where does that leave this year’s team?
I’m not sure the offense will be better, but it very well may be more effective. Allow me to explain. With an active Moss catching deep balls for touchdowns and spreading the field, opening up underneath for other receivers, the offense is considered “better” because it will statistically put up bigger numbers. But does that mean it’s an effective offense? Certainly not. An effective offense controls the game and pulls out a win. Scoring on only three plays looks great on the stat sheet, but when the defense had no time to rest, is back on the field and let’s up a score to the other team, then is that offense really effective? The Weeks 3 and 4 wins showed what an effective offense can do. Brady distributed the ball to several receivers, the defense couldn’t key in on one guy to stop, and the team ate up the clock with shorter passes and a resurgent running game. That served to not only score points but protect the young defense that is vulnerable but improving every game.
A lot of buzz words and phrases are being thrown around, especially on NFL Network, such as, “spread the field,” “open up underneath,” “stretch the defense,” and so on. The experts are contending that the Pats don’t have anybody who can do that now, which will mean that Welker and Aaron Hernandez and the other receivers will not be as open as they used to be. Last night when I first reported the rumors of the trade, I said the same thing. But the more I thought about it, the more ridiculous that claim seemed. Wes Welker was mystifying defenses when he was in Miami, who certainly had no Moss-type receivers on the roster. Before Moss, the Pats didn’t have a Moss-type and they did just fine. Deion Branch could run an occasional burner route, but he did most of his damage underneath. David Givens didn’t have blazing speed but occasionally went deep, but that was based on scheme and design. How many NFL teams have a Moss-type receiver? Very few. The Pats have Brandon Tate who has great speed. He now has to establish himself as a deep threat, which if he can do, teams will not be prepared for and will have to adjust to over time, time that he can spend torching defenses. Taylor Price is an unknown commodity and could provide a vertical threat. Most importantly, though, is that the scheme that gave opposing defenses fits and wore them down over 60 minutes can return. So the offense, I feel, will be just fine.
Lastly, the compensation the Pats received is in question. Quite frankly, I think they let Moss go for too little. Perhaps the market wasn’t there, but I find that somewhat hard to believe. Randy Moss for a third-round pick just feels like a steal. Not quite as bad as when New England acquired him for a 4th round pick from the Raiders, but a steal nonetheless. If the Pats had to move him fast due to a brewing locker room situation, then I can understand. However, a player of Moss’ caliber seems to be worth more than a 3rd rounder. It would have been nice to see the Pats try and snag a defensive player, even if in a one-for-one deal. A player like DE Ray Edwards, who is off to a slow start, could have boosted the pass rush. He also has the body type to play outside linebacker in the Pats’ 3-4. Regardless, the Pats have set themselves up quite nicely for the upcoming draft. They now have 2 picks in each of the first four rounds.
We can talk and speculate for two weeks, but we’ll see exactly how this plays out as the season progresses. As for the immediate future, Moss is expected to address the media Thursday, which should be interesting. I’m very interested to hear Brady’s reaction, who was not happy when the Pats dealt Deion Branch in 2006, though Branch and Moss are two different people. We will see Moss again on Halloween when the Vikings play the Pats IN Gillette Stadium. It should be a much-hyped game and we likely will have the pleasure (or in this case displeasure) of seeing Moss in a Patriots end zone a few more times.
Don’t forget to voice your opinion on the trade in the poll to the right of the page.