"When you have done so much and put so much work in, it kind of feels like I am not wanted," Moss recently said in an exclusive interview with CBSSports.com's William Bendetson. "I am taking that in stride and playing my final year out and whatever the future holds is what it holds, but it is kind of a bad feeling -- feeling not wanted. It is not like my production has gone down. I am speaking from an individual standpoint. I don't know about Tom [Brady's] or whoever else's contract."
Brady's alleged extension aside, the Pats are already suffering a lot of roster turmoil. Guard Logan Mankins(notes) is in the middle of a contentious and protracted holdout. Defenders Ty Warren(notes) and Leigh Bodden(notes) are out for the year with injuries. The team has tried defensive plug-ins already, and on the offensive side, the Patriots still have an uncertain running game and the recovery of Wes Welker(notes) to think of. An unhappy Moss, who has raised Brady's totals from excellent to stratospheric since 2007 and kept the offense together when Brady was lost for the 2008 season to a knee injury, could be disastrous in the long term.
The sad part is that Moss has seen this coming for some time. "You know the Patriots don't really pay," Moss told Christopher L. Gasper of the Boston Globe in February. "So when I got my second contract from them that was a blessing in disguise. I understand the business. I don't think they're going to re-sign me back. I'm not mad. I'm not bitter. It's just the way things are in this NFL, so like I said after this year I'll be looking for a new team. I think so."
Moss (who will make $6.4 million this season and will be a free agent in 2011) may be 33 years old, but expecting his numbers to drop due to age would be a mistake. He seems to have all the earmarks of the same kinds of age patterns enjoyed by Tim Brown(notes) and Jerry Rice. For all the legitimate questions about his motivation toward the end of his disastrous time with the Oakland Raiders, he's been as vital to the Pats as any non-quarterback could be, and he's obviously keeping himself in ridiculous shape. If you take out the 2007 season that had Moss and Brady putting up numbers reminiscent of Madden football on the "rookie" setting, 2009 saw Moss's highest totals for receptions (83), first downs (62) and receiving yards (1,264) since 2003, and most touchdowns (13) since 2004. Moss isn't just beating the age curve; he's swimming upstream.
The Patriots are noted for their ability to get rid of players just as they start to decline; it's been one of the hallmarks of Bill Belichick's tenure in New England. And it's worked for the most part. But just as Belichick waited too long to replace certain defensive cogs on the roster, he now may be dismissing Randy Moss(notes) too early. And if that's the case, the Patriots can expect a great season from their primary playmaker as Moss looks to prove a point and increase his value.
Maybe that's been Belichick's idea all along, but it's a dangerous game of chicken. If you're going to spend so much money on Tom Brady, why not throw some coin to the guy who would extend his career better than any other?
Randy Moss may have been a malcontent in the past, but this time, he's earned the benefit of the doubt.
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- Randy Moss