October 06, 2010
If this thing happened in a fantasy league it would be quickly vetoed, but the NFL is a bit more complicated than your office 10-teamer.
No matter what you think of Moss' skills at this stage of his career (he's 33), or his year-to-date production (139 yards, 3 TDs), or his obvious dissatisfaction with the Patriots (here's a reminder), you need to at least acknowledge this much: He still occupies the opposing defense's best corner, and usually a second defensive back. He can still be dominant in jump-ball situations, and he can still make ridiculous catches look simple.
Moss may not be the player he was 10 years ago, or even three years ago, but he's still a serious asset, a guy who demands attention. His on-field presence has made life much easier for every other member of New England's receiving corps. (If you need an example of Moss' impact, even as a decoy, check the tape on Danny Woodhead's(notes) Monday night touchdown catch. Moss draws multiple DBs, leaving a linebacker with too much real estate to cover). But clearly Moss' off-field presence has made life difficult for Bill Belichick and New England's front office. If the team wasn't going to sign the star receiver to an extension, then the relationship between player and organization was likely to deteriorate further — and Randy, for all his talent, is a guy who can make bad situations exponentially worse.
There's little question that this is a huge short-term win for Minnesota, and for Brett Favre(notes). It was painful watching Favre attempt to direct a potential game-winning drive against Miami two weeks ago, targeting guys like Greg Lewis(notes), Bernard Berrian(notes) and Visanthe Shiancoe(notes). Moss, not unlike the '09 version of Sidney Rice(notes), is the sort of receiver who will make degree-of-difficulty receptions when covered, he's a legit vertical threat, and he'll immediately have Favre's absolute trust. He certainly won't lack motivation throughout the balance of the season. (Assuming he remains healthy, Moss will actually play 17 games this year; he's arriving after the Vikings' bye). History tells us that Moss is a max-effort player in his early weeks with any team. From a fantasy perspective, Percy Harvin(notes) get a value bump. He was miscast as traditional No. 1, but he'll benefit from having Moss on the outside.
This acquisition probably tells us something not-so-positive about the recovery timeline for Rice following hip surgery. That's perhaps the only bad news for the Vikings, and it's pure speculation. From this moment on, Minnesota's opponents will have a nightmare on their hands, as they're forced to decide whether to commit extra defensive resources to Adrian Peterson, an all-time running back, or Moss, an all-time receiver.
If you're a Patriots fan, you're forced to give the benefit of the doubt to your super-genius head coach. It's clear that New England didn't feel Moss could possibly be a success story in a Pats uniform this year; that's the bottom line. Not so long ago, your team managed to win multiple Super Bowls with uninteresting receivers — David Patten(notes), Troy Brown(notes), Deion Branch(notes), David Givens(notes), et al — so let's not assume they won't compete this season. Of course you also had a different defense in those days. At least you've added a third-round pick. It's something. There's talent in Round 3. Tight end Aaron Hernandez(notes) was a fourth-rounder, and he's an emerging star.
We need to dial down the rest-of-season fantasy projection for Tom Brady(notes), obviously. Before Moss arrived in New England, Brady had only delivered one 4,000-yard campaign, and his best single-season TD total was 28. Even an unhappy, sulking, disrespected, aging version of Moss was going catch 10 touchdown passes, easy. Wes Welker(notes) already saw plenty of double-teams, but the coverage on him will only get tighter now that Randy is gone.
Brandon Tate(notes) is a winner here, as he'll see an uptick in targets. He's a speedy second-year receiver, a credible deep threat who's taken a pair kick returns the distance this season. It's reasonable to view this trade as a vote of confidence in Tate. Julian Edelman(notes) gets a value boost, too. Neither of those players can deliver a satisfying Moss impression, though, so don't exhaust your FAAB resources. Tate is the better add. The Patriots have been unusually TE-reliant thus far — Hernandez leads the team in receiving yards (240) — and you should expect that approach to continue. Without Moss, however, the field shrinks, which helps no one.
Surreal though it may be, Randy is about to make his first appearance in a Vikings jersey since January, 2005. He'll face the Jets on Monday night and will presumably see quite a bit of Darrelle Revis(notes), a familiar foe. That game is suddenly more compelling, by orders of magnitude. But it's really just an appetizer.
The main dish is served in Week 8, on Halloween, when Minnesota travels to New England. Prepare to see a few of these.
Photo via US Presswire