Sizing up the Moss market: Which teams make the most sense
So let me get this straight: The guy who once said he plays when he wants to play wants to play again? Ah, but it takes somebody to want him to play for them, and that's where Randy Moss's big 35th birthday un-retirement announcement on Monday comes out sounding like the proverbial one-sided conversation at the moment.
If three teams were willing to give up on him in the span of about three months in the 2010 regular season, and no one managed to lure him out of retirement at any point during 2011, why is it exactly that there would be much of a need for his services now, when he's that much further down the road and offers less certainty and potential value than ever? What am I missing?
That's not to say Moss may not have something left in the tank and may be able to make a contribution of some sort to somebody's passing game in 2012. We've seen what a Moss with renewed motivation can do before (in New England, circa 2007), and that player helped break a few NFL records. If Moss can convince a team that his body is still whole and his head is in the right place -- two sizable ifs -- a comeback route might be there for the running this season.
Absence does make the heart grow fonder, and Moss clearly missed the game last season. But did the game miss him? He'll need to find a team willing to take another chance on him, when the last three teams he was with all decided his downside outweighed his upside (actually, four teams if you count Oakland giving him away to the Patriots in April 2007, and of course, Minnesota trading him initially in early 2005). That's a trend that's hard to reverse once it becomes the accepted narrative about a player in the NFL.
Moss taking to a live video chat with his fans, saying he's ready for the NFL again, isn't the same as the NFL saying it's ready for Moss again. Time will tell us if there's still a market for his services, and mid-February is not when that market will develop. For that matter, Moss's next team might not reveal itself even by mid-July. He could easily have to wait until training camp -- or longer -- to get a serious offer from some club in need of a veteran pass-catcher.
"I wanna play football,'' Moss said Monday, via USTREAM. "Your boy is going to come back here and play some football, so I'm really excited. I had some things I had to adjust in my life.''
Chances are, one of the things Moss had to "adjust'' in his life was his expectation level and the reality of where he fits into the grand scheme of things from an NFL perspective at this point in his life/career. He's a future Hall of Famer who can rightfully claim to have changed the game, but all you need to know regarding how much he devalued his reputation and damaged his marketability in 2010 is this:
The Patriots last season could have signed him for a song, and they knew he was telling his former New England teammates that the only team he would play for again was the Pats and coach Bill Belichick. New England briefly mulled over the move, then went out and traded fifth- and sixth-round picks to Cincinnati for Chad Ochocinco, who wound up catching all of 16 passes in 17 games. Moss could have topped those numbers with his eyes closed, running routes by sound only, but it's telling that the Patriots still thought Ochocinco was an investment worth making and Moss wasn't.
Moss as a Patriot in 2010 basically talked his way out of town, complaining about his lack of a long-term contract in a press conference, battling with offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien at halftime of his final game with New England, in Week 4 of that season, and reportedly taxing the patience of quarterback Tom Brady with his constant need for game plan targeting and star-treatment coddling. Brady was growing weary of having to worry about keeping Moss's mood ring a happy color, and Belichick responded by removing that concern from his QB's daily checklist.
Those are the kind of margin notes you don't want on your resume in the NFL, but Moss has those negatives and more from his tumultuous 2010, including his suggestion to Vikings owner Zygi Wilf that head coach Brad Childress be fired (which eventually was taken), and his near-invisible eight-game performance in Tennessee (six catches for 80 yards).
Those are the most recent memories we have of Moss, and those are the images he has to overcome to find a team willing to give him another chance in the league. In his own small way, Moss helped Brett Favre, Childress and Titans head coach Jeff Fisher all leave the league after the 2010 season, as did he.
Here are five teams that make some sense to me as potential suitors for Moss this year, if not now, then perhaps this summer. I'll give you a reason or two why it might work, and another why it won't: