Breaking down the blockbuster Moss trade from every angle
Brady can't be too thrilled to be losing one of the game's most feared weapons
Does Belichick still have a move to make before the Oct. 19 trading deadline?
This trade sure makes the NFL's October schedule a whole lot more interesting
Musings, observations and the occasional insight as we digest the blockbuster trade that sends Randy Moss back to Minnesota, from as many divergent angles as possible ...
Never mind the rest of the reaction to the Moss deal from around the NFL. The person I want to hear the most from today is Tom Brady. What is No. 12's take on losing the receiver he recently called the greatest downfield receiver in the history of the NFL? Nobody in New England has spent more time and energy lauding Moss and the impact he can have in a game than Brady, who less than a month ago landed that monster contract extension from the Patriots.
I can't believe Brady is all that thrilled to be losing one of the game's most feared weapons just four games into the 2010 season, with New England sitting at 3-1, tied for first place in the AFC East, and leading the NFL in points with 131 (32.8 per game). 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.
No matter how you slice it, this is a pretty gutsy move by Belichick. He has proven before that he'll put the team's long-term interests over its short-term goals (see the Richard Seymour trade on final cutdown weekend of 2009), but in this case, the Patriots didn't reap the bounty of a first-round pick in exchange for one of their still-productive stars.
They got a third-rounder in next year's draft. That's a decent return by the relative standards of NFL trades, given Moss was going to be a free agent next spring. But by no means will it be enough if the Patriots' passing game suffers and struggles because of this trade, taking the team's Super Bowl hopes down with it.
Could it be that Belichick still has a move to make before the Oct. 19 trading deadline? How about a deal for San Diego big-play receiver Vincent Jackson? Would Chargers general manager A.J. Smith dare deal him to the Patriots, the very team he has been chasing and trying to model his own club after for the past five years or so? Now that would make the AFC race infinitely more interesting in the season's final 10 weeks or so.
Dumping Moss leads me to believe that Belichick felt the tipping point had been reached with his at-times-problematic star receiver, and that once Moss reportedly asked for a trade after the New England regular-season opener, he already had one foot out the door this year from a mental perspective. One media report Tuesday night said Moss and Belichick had words or some sort of encounter Tuesday regarding Moss getting shut out in terms of receptions in the Monday night win at Miami (his first blanking in a game since 2006 in Oakland). If it was Moss complaining face-to-face to his head coach, that might have been the straw that broke the camel's back for the receiver in New England.
Belichick knows he has a team that can compete and maybe win the AFC East this year, and it's not in his DNA to give up on a season just a month into the schedule. But I also don't think he was in any mood to watch as Moss's effort or commitment level swooned as the season unfolded. Belichick likely saw the trade as cutting his losses before they reached some unmanageable stage.
The Vikings know Brett Favre wasn't too happy about leaving Hattiesburg in August only to find out days later the injured Sidney Rice wasn't going to be around to throw to in the first half of the season. So in as bold a win-now move as you'll ever see, they went out and landed Moss, the one player Favre has openly pined to play with for years.
That should not only energize Favre, whose play has been inconsistent at best so far this season, it will energize Moss, who clearly needs to be wanted and appreciated in order to give it his best effort on a weekly basis. Favre and Moss will replace the mutual admiration society that Brady and Moss had going in New England.
But it's just another indication -- and a huge one -- that Minnesota is determined to take its best possible shot at winning a Super Bowl this season, in what Favre says will be his last go-round. Paying a third-round pick for Moss's services for 13 games (and the playoffs, hopefully) isn't an exorbitant price. Especially if it pays off next February in Dallas, triggering a big confetti shower and a ring presentation.
If the Patriots don't have another move for a receiver in mind, they're obviously banking on second-year man Brandon Tate to step up in Moss's absence. Tate has been an electrifying kick returner so far this season, with a pair of touchdowns on kickoffs, but he has just 11 career receptions for 135 yards -- all of which have come in four games this season.
But while Tate has speed and can help stretch the field vertically the way Moss did, he's not drawing double coverage like Moss, who was a constant focal point for the game plans of opposing defenses. New England is going to need more from every one of its receivers -- Wes Welker, Julian Edelman, Tate, and perhaps most importantly, rookie tight ends Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski.
The Patriots in their glory years won titles with receiving corps that lacked a legitimate No. 1 receiver. The likes of Deion Branch, David Givens, Troy Brown and David Patten were enough to get it done. But those New England teams relied much more on their strong, veteran-led defenses and power running games paced by Antowain Smith or Corey Dillon. These Patriots are much more of a pass-first offense, and the youth in New England's defense is plentiful.
The Moss trade sure makes the NFL's October schedule a whole lot more interesting. First off, we get Moss' Vikings re-debut on Monday night against the Jets, in the game that had been billed as a mini-homecoming for Favre, who quarterbacked New York in 2008. Adding Moss to the mix of subplots in the Vikings-Jets game takes it over the top, not to mention that it'll be Moss' second consecutive Monday Night Football appearance (on two different teams).
In Weeks 6 and 7, the Vikings play at home against Dallas, who Moss has always tormented, and at Green Bay. Favre talk will dominate the trip to Lambeau, but him having Moss to throw to adds another intriguing layer to the matchup.
And then, even more enticingly, the Minnesota at New England matchup in Week 8 will now likely get something resembling the full-blown, weeklong hype treatment previously reserved for the likes of Favre against the Packers or Donovan McNabb returning to Philadelphia.
Less than four weeks after being traded away by the Patriots, Moss will return to Foxboro and try to exact some revenge on the team that didn't want to re-sign him for 2011 and beyond. It's scheduled for a 4:15 p.m. ET kickoff on Oct. 31 at Gillette Stadium, and by the time the second half starts, Halloween night will be underway. Will it be trick or treat for Moss, or the Pats?
I just thought of one big loser in the Moss deal, and that's Moss's 33-year-old body. If everything goes as planned, Moss will wind up playing 17 games in the regular season, because the Vikings just took their bye in Week 4, and the Patriots are about to take theirs in Week 5. With Moss now in Minnesota, he'll wind up playing four games for New England and 13 for the Vikings.
And no, I don't know if NFL commissioner Roger Goodell will try and use Moss as an illustration for how players can readily adapt to a potential 18-game regular season schedule.