It’s Proving Hard to Put Lipstick On This Moss Trade

Sports fans, including myself, are usually pre-disposed to the following condition: give a fan some time and he or she can probably convince themselves that any transaction or strategic move completed by their team is a good one. Well, as far as I can tell, this axiom went down to defeat this morning.

Try as I may, it’s proving difficult to apply any lipstick to this Randy Moss trade.  Yes, his production has slipped. And yes, he hasn’t won one of his patented “jump balls” in two years. But Randy Moss, even at eighty percent, is still pretty good. And without question, his departure is a net negative for the Patriots and their gameday depth chart.  

So why did Belichick make this move? Well, I can’t help but think some of this started back in December of last year when Moss puked all over that Carolina game. For those who don’t remember, that Sunday, Moss drifted and sulked all afternoon and afterwards, was accused by many of dogging it against the Panthers. Now Belichick never prosecuted Moss for the Carolina crime. In fact, he came to number 81’s defense.  But Belichick’s support never appeared to be genuine and I got the feeling that Randy lost a fan that afternoon.

Well, it now appears that Moss lost Belichick as a Facebook friend after the receiver started bitching about his contract earlier this season. Reports suggest Belichick reamed Moss out for that “week one” transgression and today’s trade is a clear indication that irreparable damage was caused that afternoon.

I say that because I don’t buy this thesis that the Pats knew they would be losing Moss after the season and decided to get something while they can. The logic of that argument is entirely specious, especially after one learns that the Pats ONLY secured a third round pick for Moss.  

Sorry, but picking up a third rounder in a draft that may be awfully shallow – depending on the status of the new CBA – is hardly fair compensation for losing an elite receiver four games into a season. I’m not saying that losing Moss is a season-killer, but it’s a loss of some significance. And it’s hard to argue that the emergence of Brandon Tate as a deep threat is sufficient to offset the entire loss.  

Now given the compensation coming back from Minny and the timing, my gut tells me that Moss had either already become a big problem or Belichick felt the situation was ready to ignite and the cancer would be everywhere in a couple of weeks. Short of that, I just don’t see the justification for this move. Not at this point in the season. And not with the club set up decently for the dozen games ahead. Now if the Pats were 1-3 at this point, perhaps I might buy the “get something now” thesis. But at 3-1, this just doesn’t make much sense.

The other thing I find odd is how willing the Pats are to stockpile ammo for next year’s draft. The NFL world seems awfully impressed by the fact that the Pats now have two picks in each of the first four rounds and if they wanted, the Patriots could probably deal their way into four of the top-40 picks. But what if there is a labor impasse come March and the majority of top-Juniors decide they would rather return to school than risk being drafted into a locked-out season? That hollows out next year’s draft and makes each Patriot pick worth about a half-round lower than normal. In light of that, Moss may end up netting a pick which normally would fetch fourth-round talent. That seems like an awfully bad trade to me.

Normally I would ask for some time so I could convince myself otherwise. But I don’t think my powers of persuasion will allow me to get more constructive on this transaction. Not today. Not later this week. And probably not later in the year. Yeah, I can tell myself that Tate is ready to explode and he will give the club a fresh set of legs. And I can take some solace in the fact that if Moss was ready to melt, it was better to get him out right now rather than later. But the fact of the matter is Moss, slippage and all, was still a big part of this offense. And to think that his talents on the field won’t be missed is foolish.  

In that vein, it’s tough to argue the Patriots got better today. Best case, they headed off a chemistry trainwreck and five years from now, we will look back and thank god the Pats made the best third round selection since the Giants nabbed Justin Tuck in 2005. Worst case, a self-inflicted wound just knocked a win or two off the 2010 season.  Belichick may have proved a point this morning. But that point might be the difference between playing in January and getting a head start on scouting who the Pats should take with the Vikes third round pick.



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7 responses to “It’s Proving Hard to Put Lipstick On This Moss Trade

  1. Generally agree, but think the third-rounder is market. Moss isn’t under contract, so Minnesota is going to have to pay “market” to keep Randy happy. I don’t know if that number is $30/3 or what, but you can’t give up much more than that when you are paying that much. Same across the whole league. Jets gave up a 4th for 12 games of Santonio Holmes, also a free agent at the end of the season. Most team’s would rather pay a rookie 2nd or 3rd-rounder his signing bonus and $500K a year for 3-4 years than have so much loaded up in a 30+ receiver. How are they going to pay Rice, Harvin, AP, Moss and a QB going forward?

    • My point to that would be …. whether it’s market or not, it doesn’t do the Pats much good. Picking up an extra three in a draft where they already have seven picks in the first four rounds strikes me as overkill. Yeah, there are things they can do with that pick which are helpful, but at the end of the day, picks are not what this club needs. Quite frankly, I would have preferred they get a player back. Not sure Minny – in a win-now mode – is primed to start moving bodies, but if I were the Pats, I may have tried flipping this … we’ll give you Moss for Ray Edwards, who I believe will be a UFA this off-season.

  2. Also, I’m guessing because the lockout would come in March, they wouldn’t go forward with the draft in April because their would be no CBA. I’m not sure about this, but if that is the case, then a lockout might actually benefit the Pats. If they lockout a whole year, they’d have two+ draft classes to pick from and Moss becomes way less valuable. If they reach an agreement, then it’s all moot.

    • Not sure this is any precedent … but in 1998, the NBA held a draft in late June and the players were locked out until January of 1999. My guess, and its only a guess, is the NFL, even with a lockout, would operate next Spring under the assumption that the 2011 season would be played and draft-eligible players would need homes. Otherwise, what would happen if they struck a deal on Labor Day? You would have 200 college players without teams or eligibility.

  3. Mister Snitch!

    What you’re doing here is having an argument with yourself. You realize that, right? In your gut you know Belichick is as sharp as any coach on the planet. Could he have gotten a better pick for Moss? Obviously not if the trade had to happen now, or they’d have made a better deal. Did the trade have to happen now? Belichick felt it did, and from his POV he wanted to get that business out of the way. He’s building a team, and isn’t going to hold that up to see if he can cut a slightly better deal on a player he wants to move.

    Also, this:

    “hardly fair compensation for losing an elite receiver”

    Is that what Moss is today – an elite receiver? Elite meaning among the league’s best?

    Or is ‘elite’ what Moss USED to be? Jerry Rice – I think he was ‘elite’ pretty much right to the end. Get the ball near him, he’d find a way. But Moss? He made those big-game, Rice-type catches once. Not anymore.

    I think Moss will make some big catches for Favre once he settles in. Then he’ll fade again. Some Pats fans will say ‘Moss could have made those catches for us!’. But the fact is – no, he couldn’t. He had no more big plays in him for the Patriots.

    That’s the way relationships are sometimes. Could you get better terms on your divorce if you held out, fought harder, and spent more money on attorneys? Maybe. But tell that to some guy who’s in a horror-show marriage. Some things, you just want to get them over with.

    • With regard to “elite” …. Clearly, the 2010 Moss is not the 2007 Moss but the 2007 Moss wasn’t merely elite … he was probably the most dangerous player in football. So yes, he has lost some game. The drops are up and what is way down are the instances where he just goes up and steals a jump ball. That was a huge part of his game early in his career and up through 2008 he still owned a big advantage on 50/50 balls. Now, not so much. But I still think he is one of the better receivers in the conference. And I don’t think Tate will be able to fill that void. At least not this year. (But Tate can burn …. hard to not like that guy’s speed!)

      All that said … I agree with what you are saying … this thing had surely got ugly behind the scenes and coming out of Monday, BB probably felt it was a tinder box ready to burn. So just get it done! So my problem is less about compensation and really more about being disappointed that Moss couldn’t STFU and given the Pats another dozen games.

  4. Mister Snitch!

    “So my problem is less about compensation and really more about being disappointed that Moss couldn’t STFU and given the Pats another dozen games.”

    Yes, I felt you were actually struggling toward a conclusion along those lines. Frustrating situation.

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