Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

17 Oct 2006

Moss Could Grow on Pats

I'm guessing if the Patriots had it all to do over again, they'd just give Deion Branch a new deal. But since that ship has sailed, and with the trade deadline expiring today at 4 p.m., the Randy Moss rumors are picking up steam. And even though he's had some issues in Oakland (who hasn't?), former Raider Doug Gabriel says Moss would be a "perfect fit" in New England's offense and that he "loves to work." Hmm. Art Shell might disagree.

Posted by: P. Ryan Wilson on 17 Oct 2006

42 comments, Last at 18 Oct 2006, 10:09am by dryheat


by White Rose Duelist (not verified) :: Tue, 10/17/2006 - 1:10pm

Yeah, right. So the net result of New England's WR deals (assuming they give up the first) is to pay more for a slightly better but less team-oriented receiver for less games than if they signed Branch?

by michael (not verified) :: Tue, 10/17/2006 - 1:11pm

please, for the love of god, don't let this happen. There's no way this is a "corey dillon" situation, where a "disgruntled" player goes to a good team, and suddenly has no character problems. Moss has *been* on good teams: he's just poison.

by bsr (not verified) :: Tue, 10/17/2006 - 1:16pm

#1 - Moss is only a slightly better WR then Branch? You aren't serious are you?

#2 - Right the situations aren't comparable. Dillon had a much more checkered past then Moss.

by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Tue, 10/17/2006 - 1:17pm

I just dont see it happening. Theres no upside.

The problem with the Pats isnt that they dont have talented recievers; the problem is that they dont have recievers that know the system. Moss just makes that worse.

by ABW (not verified) :: Tue, 10/17/2006 - 1:18pm

Yeah, I'll note that most of the support for this rumor seems to come from Doug Gabriel, who, last time I checked, does not have a lot of influence on personnel decisions in the Patriots organization.

Some reporter asked Gabriel if he thought Moss would be a fit in the offense. Well, obviously any offense could use a Randy Moss, and it's a pretty poor offensive coordinator who can't figure out how to fit Randy Moss into the offense. Everything Gabriel said is true, but it's a little ridiculous that people have taken an off-hand comment by a receiver and blown it into a big deal. I guess that's why they call them rumors though.

by GlennW (not verified) :: Tue, 10/17/2006 - 2:37pm

> Moss is only a slightly better WR then Branch? You aren’t serious are you?

Not that I think Moss is going to the Patriots, but the above is still an arguable proposition, especially if the future is considered. With both Moss and TO, I don't think we're talking about the same guys of a couple years ago in terms of their talent, production, and injury health.

by Jeff (not verified) :: Tue, 10/17/2006 - 2:41pm

"The problem with the Pats isnt that they dont have talented recievers; the problem is that they dont have recievers that know the system."

Moss has 10,369 career receiving yards.

Brown (6150), Caldwell (1068) and Gabriel (1251) combined have less than Moss in over twice as many games.

I suppose Chad Jackson is talented, but how do we know that when he doesn't play.

by Pacifist Viking (not verified) :: Tue, 10/17/2006 - 2:46pm

I hope this happens, for Moss's sake and ours. I could see him rotting away in Oakland, seeing no chance for success, not caring, not trying. If he goes to a contender, he might find that motivation he lacks now and give us some more "wow" years.

by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Tue, 10/17/2006 - 2:49pm

7 And how is that even relevant?

Moss came from a system where he was the main target. He goes to NE, and I doubt he puts up more than 1000 yds. NE just likes to spread the ball around too much.

He doesnt add anything right now, and doesnt really add anything in the future. Hes a reciever who wont come in and immediately make a difference, because he doesnt know the playbook, and its becoming apparant that he may be on the declining side of his career. I just dont see any advantage to adding another talented reciever who doesnt know the offence. Its just going to cause Brady to make more throws to areas that dont have recievers in them.

by Vern (not verified) :: Tue, 10/17/2006 - 2:51pm

Re: 1 - you have to look at ALL player signings in terms of the multi-year scenario.

The big issue with Branch was being LOCKED into him for 3+ years (due to the big up front signing bonus - the Pats made offers that were otherwise in the range but the bonus delayed). Unless they really love a guy, they'd rather have the flexibility later on to go after someone at a different position or for someone better at the WR position.

If the Pats "rent" Moss this year and dump him, the Pats still get to keep the cap space for 07+. If the Pats sign Branch, they are commmited to that guy at that position.

Actually, Dillon is a good example here on the finance side too. They paid him plenty, even though his skills are in decline, but had no problem with it because it wasn't front loaded and didn't lock them in past the two years.

You can still argue skills and value, but the time period differences are huge factors in these things.

by Pacifist Viking (not verified) :: Tue, 10/17/2006 - 2:53pm

9: there are some plays Moss doesn't have to learn. He can still go deep--maybe not like he used to, but he still can--and that's not a tough play to learn.

Plus, as far as I could tell on Monday (it's hard to really understand coverages on TV), Moss still commands attention, and he opens up other receivers.

But I don't care about the Patriots or whether this is a good idea for them. I just want to see Randy catch touchdowns!

by Pacifist Viking (not verified) :: Tue, 10/17/2006 - 3:04pm

Eh, PFT says it's not happening now.

by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Tue, 10/17/2006 - 3:06pm


Right, Randy can still go deep. So can Ben Watson, Gabriel, even Bethel Johnson could go deep real well. The problem is, Brady can't hit them deep. Maybe that would be a huge help though, having a big reciever who could plaxico-eli-jumpball for him down there.

Brady excells when he has recievers that can run crisp routes, are smart, and get open. Right now, Moss isnt doing that, and hasnt been doing that since Minnesota. He dogs routes, doesnt hustle, and doesnt get open when plays start to break down. Hes the anti-troy-brown.

by Jeff (not verified) :: Tue, 10/17/2006 - 3:08pm


It's relevant because the receivers the Patriots have just aren't that talented.

Caldwell's not that good. Gabriel's allright, but not great. Troy Brown is good, but he's a #3 possession receiver. Jackson has potential, but is injured and a rookie. Moss is far more talented than all of them and would be the best receiver Brady's ever had. NE likes to spread the ball around because they've never had a WR like Moss.

You can make an argument that Moss's negatives outweigh his talent if you want, but he's clearly more talented than anything the Pats have.

by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Tue, 10/17/2006 - 3:41pm

I'm not arguing that hes not more talented.

I'm arguing that his talent isnt going to make enough immediate, or long term difference to warrant the Patriots giving up a first rounder plus a starter.

by brett (not verified) :: Tue, 10/17/2006 - 3:48pm

Why do people think the Pats want a guy who doesnt block, and runs bad routes? The gay one on Mike and Mike this morning thought Moss made the Pats instant AFC favorites. Moss is/was a great receiver, but i dont think he really fits in in NE

by Nathan (not verified) :: Tue, 10/17/2006 - 5:04pm

He doesn't fit in NE?!

I really didn't expect that many people arguing, maybe I'm wrong but as a Colts fan, looking at NE with a real reciever instead of SD's 3rd string from last year, a tight end, and a 40 year old CB/WR, I'd have to think that grabbing one of the top 5 wideouts in the league might be a good idea.

I'd do it in a second if I was NE. Do you want to waste a year with no wideouts, or take a shot at Moss. What's the worst that happens?!

Your first rounders aren't all that great (Marooney is a rarity) anyway if you're getting to the Superbowl which I think is your goal.

by B (not verified) :: Tue, 10/17/2006 - 5:10pm

Is it wierd to say I'd rather have Jerry Porter than Randy Moss? Moss is the better talent, but it seems to me that Porter has less baggage and he's younger, too.

by MJK (not verified) :: Tue, 10/17/2006 - 5:12pm

A few points:

Belichick has actually said in past press conferences that (1) he doesn't think Moss is a cancer and (2) he would love having Moss on the team, and added that there are not many coaches in the league that would not want Moss on their team.

However, Rich is right in that Moss probably doesn't represent enough short term value, relative to the cost (both salary and the draft pick), to justify the trade. Of course, one question that deserves consideration is how is the upcoming draft class reciever (and linebacker) wise? These are NE's areas of need to get younger, and if it's a rich class, then the draft pick is probably more valuable than Moss in the long run. If it's talent starved, Moss might be a better bet.

I think if, at the beginning of training camp, if NE had known they would end up trading Branch for a 1st rounder, they would have traded that 1st rounder for Moss in a heartbeat. But his value is less coming in in the middle of the season.

On the other hand, the big problem with the Pats recievers right now is that they are all pretty much #2 recievers at best. None of them command enough of a defense's attention to draw coverage away from the others. If Moss did that, he would be valuable, even if he didn't catch a lot of balls.

But back on the first hand, it's hard to see how his aversion to blocking in the running game plays into the Pats offensive schemes.

By the way, Brady has no issues throwing the long ball. He's thrown his share of perfect long rainbows in the past. The recievers have no issue streaking down the field to get open. The issue , probably even more so for long balls than for medium balls, is timing. To long ball successfully, the QB needs to know exactly how fast the reciever is running, breaking, making moves, etc, before the reciever does that, since the ball is in the air for like 4 seconds and the margin for error is very small. Moss wouldn't help the long ball game (not even Santanna Moss would do that)--only familiarity will help that.

by GlennW (not verified) :: Tue, 10/17/2006 - 5:13pm

FWIW, I've heard Bill Belichick say some nice things about Randy Moss in the past, and not just in falsely praising an opponent. That's the only reason I take any part of this rumor seriously...

by PatsFan (not verified) :: Tue, 10/17/2006 - 5:15pm

Well, it's after 4pm EDT and I don't see anything about any trades (Moss, Porter, or anyone else) at ESPN.com, SI.com, or the Boston or SF-area papers.

by B (not verified) :: Tue, 10/17/2006 - 5:20pm

From the article that pacificst viking linked to, Al Davis is unwilling to acknowledge that his team is bad. That is quite possibly the most insane thing I've heard him say all week.

by Disco Stu (not verified) :: Tue, 10/17/2006 - 5:26pm

Re #4, etc- I never understand why people defend the Pats WRs. As a unit they're the worst in the league (in terms of pure talent). And outside of Troy Brown, how well can they know the system? None of them were on the team last year!

If you can argue that Gabriel is an asset because he's a pretty talented WR, despite that he's only been on the team 6 weeks, then you should be drooling over Moss! He's a MUCH more talented reciever. And by the time the playoffs roll around he'll have had 2/3 of a year to practice w Brady and get the timing down.

From the looks of things the Pats sholdn't have any trouble making the playoffs, so why wouldn't you want Moss on your team in January? He could be integrated into the offense slowly- 10-15 decoy/deep/quick screen plays the first few weeks. And over the course of the season he'd become more involved and the Pats could be unstoppable. Why any Pats fan wouldn't want this boggles me. A first rounder for a Super Bowl this year seems like a steal of a trade.

by Disco Stu (not verified) :: Tue, 10/17/2006 - 5:31pm

Re: 19, MJK- I usually read and agree with what you have to say, but Randy Moss wouldn't help the long ball game? He's the best deep threat in NFL history, and still one of the fastest players in the game. I'd like to think that Tom Brady is a good enough QB that he can figure out how to hook up with Moss deep.

by Pacifist Viking (not verified) :: Tue, 10/17/2006 - 5:35pm

22: I thought that was absurd, too. He won't trade Moss because that would be admitting his team is bad? Who is he afraid to admit this to?

by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Tue, 10/17/2006 - 5:35pm

Belicheck HAS repeatedly said he'd take Moss. Never has he (in my knowledge) been asked if he'd take Moss and give up a first rounder. Those two are completely different things.

As to 17, go back and look at the Pats last 5 years of 1st/2nd round picks. Theyre pretty much all studs.

Round #1
2005 Logan Mankins - Starting Guard
2004 Vince Wilfork - Starting Nose Tackle
2004 Ben Watson - Starting TE
2003 Ty Warren - Starting DE
2002 Dan Graham - Staring TE
2001 Richard Seymour - Starting DE

Rnd 2
2005 No Pick
2004 Marquise Hill - DE
2003 Eugene Wilson - Starting FS/CB
2003 Bethel Johnson - Bust
2002 Deion Branch - #1 WR/ 1st round pick
2001 Matt Light - Starting LT

So, in the first 2 rounds, the only real miss the Patriots have had is Bethel Johnson. Every other pick has been a much better than average starter, except Marquise Hill, and hes only not a starter because everyone in front of him is an absolute stud.

I'll leave Maroney and Jackson out of it, they havent been around long enough, but to say NE's 1st rounders aren't that great, is to show a lack of football understanding.

by ABW (not verified) :: Tue, 10/17/2006 - 5:40pm

Re: 19

Nice post. A few comments:

The Pats don't really need to get younger at receiver except for Troy Brown. Gabriel, Jackson and Caldwell are all pretty young. They need to get better at receiver - whether that means more talent or more seasoning is up for debate.

There is at least one really good linebacker in next year's draft in Paul Posluszny from Penn State. However, he plays OLB in a 4-3 I believe...not really sure if he could play inside in a 3-4 which is where the Pats need him.

I think Chad Jackson has #1 potential. Unfortunately it is well documented that rookie receivers do not do particularly well, so I think we will have to wait at least a year before we see if he pans out...right now, I agree, none of the receivers draws double coverage from the defense. Hopefully the running game forces them to put 8 in the box.

by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Tue, 10/17/2006 - 5:43pm

To add on to my above post:

My whole point, is that the Patriots have found a HUGE amount of value in the draft. They seem to be very good at picking up players that will excel in their system. Giving up a late first rounder for them is giving up a large amount of talent, at a very low price, for talent at a very high price. That seems to be a bad idea in their book.

by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Tue, 10/17/2006 - 5:47pm

re 27

The Patriots offense has never been about Recievers drawing double coverage though, its been about having 3 decent recievers, and exploiting the fact that their decent #2 and #3 were generally better than teams #2 and #3 corners. IE, why go after the #1 corner when it costs huge money to get a reciever that can beat a #1 corner, when you can get cheap guys who can beat a #2/3 all day. If teams lined up their #1 against Branch, Givens or Brown was getting the ball. If they lined the #1 up against Givens, Branch was getting the ball. You only really need one mismatch. It doesnt have to be whoever is covering your #1.

by Zac (not verified) :: Tue, 10/17/2006 - 5:49pm

Re: 10. You're insane. Randy Moss is not a free agent next year. He signed an 8-year deal with Minnesota in 2001.

And if it were even possible to rent Moss for 10 games, it would be an even worse idea.

by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Tue, 10/17/2006 - 5:50pm

God I hate triple posting.

The only problem with having 3 number 2 recievers instead of a Stud #1, a #2, and a poor #3, is you need a QB can handle it. You put Delhollme in with NE's WR corps of last year, and it would never work. Brady is the perfect quarterback for their WR system: He makes quick reads, gets rid of the ball as soon as he sees an opening, and makes all of his checkdowns. He doesnt try to force the ball into his #1 when hes covered. Jake Delholmme would never work in that system.

by Pat (not verified) :: Tue, 10/17/2006 - 6:02pm

There is at least one really good linebacker in next year’s draft in Paul Posluszny from Penn State. However, he plays OLB in a 4-3 I believe…not really sure if he could play inside in a 3-4 which is where the Pats need him.

Poz played OLB last year in a 3-4, and MLB this year in both a 3-4 and a 4-3 - they were blessed with an overabundance of good linebackers, and so they have been swapping a DE for a standup LB frequently. So yes, he is capable of playing inside, which is where they're playing him right now.

But Poz is actually expected to go a fair amount higher than the Patriots should draft. Then again, Penn State players tend to slip for unexplained reasons, so who knows.

by MJK (not verified) :: Tue, 10/17/2006 - 6:11pm

On Moss and Brady's Deep Ball:

My impression is that Moss's skill at getting the deep ball is not his speed or ability to juke out corners, but rather to jump above them and take it away from them. Thus he holds a large value for a team with a QB that tends to underthrow the deep routes. Say, maybe the Jets with Pennington. Or a team with a QB that likes to gamble by throwing into coverage and letting the WR battle for the ball. Like Eli.

However, thus far this year Brady's problem with the deep ball has usually been overthrowing the recievers (and the coverage), not underthrowing or throwing into coverage. I think this is because he is not comfortable with the recievers' speed and timing, and hence he errs on the long side to avoid interceptions. I don't see him adjusting to an Eli "chuck it up and pray" approach, even for the sake of Moss. Thus, I don't think Moss's "deep threat" skills would help Brady all that much right now--Brady would have to get comfortable with him the same way he does with everyone else, except he would be starting later with Moss. The only type of WR that would instantly help Brady's long ball is a very fast and savvy one, preferably with some leaping ability, that could adjust to throws in the air. Say, Steve Smith. I don't think Randy Moss has the speed range at this point in his career to do that for Brady, though I won't argue with his savvy or jumping ability.

by Yaguar (not verified) :: Tue, 10/17/2006 - 6:48pm

I'm the one who got into the big Moss-Holt argument and called Moss overrated and over the hill and all that.

I can also tell you that if you wouldn't give up a 2nd rounder for him in a heartbeat, there's something really wrong with you.

I don't think the Patriots are a great fit for Moss because I don't see Brady as the sort who needs or even wants a crazy tall receiver to bail him out on jump balls. Moss would fit better with someone a little more like Rex Grossman or Jake Delhomme.

Moss should go somewhere where he's wanted and needed, so he can make an attempt to return to his form of a few years ago. I don't think New England is that place.

by Loki9179 (not verified) :: Tue, 10/17/2006 - 7:08pm

To say that the NE receivers are anything close to good is a stretch. Moss would definitely help both the #2 and #3 receivers, but probably more importantly, would also open up the running game a bit. It is hard to stack 8 guys on the line when you have Moss on the field.

The only concern in my mind would be that Moss does not play very well on grass. Given the sad/pathetic state of the NE field, his speed might be diminished somewhat by having to play on such a lousy surface. He might help them if they have to play the Colts in Indy, though.

by MJK (not verified) :: Tue, 10/17/2006 - 7:20pm

The Patriots website has a story that the Pats are replacing the field at Gillette with FieldTurf. Apparently, the league demanded that they do something, and even Belichick got annoyed about the state of the field last week.

by Pacifist Viking (not verified) :: Tue, 10/17/2006 - 7:41pm

33: Moss does have the skill to beat/juke corners, but because there is usually a safety rolled his way, he ends up having to jump to beat the defense.

by Starshatterer (not verified) :: Tue, 10/17/2006 - 7:53pm

MJK (#36 )--

Apparently, it's against the rules to change field surfaces mid-season.

Gillette will get new sod between the hashes, once the current movie project is done filming. (October 24th, or so I hear.)

The next home game is November 5th, so that's as good as it can be, this season.

Story from nfl.com linked.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 10/17/2006 - 8:10pm

Obviously, the trade ain't happening, but the other thing Moss adds is that if he just runs 20 hard streaks a game, he prevents the defense from putting a safety in the box, which really helps a team which likes to run, such as the Pats this year. The Pats could definitely have used him, but I'd wager that Al Davis stupidly (yes, I know it's hard to believe) set the price too high, due to his being unwilling to admit his error in trading for Moss to begin with, and thus prevented the Raiders from getting desperately needed players. The Raiders would have been improved if they had only gotten a third and fourth round draft pick, assuming they drafted with any proficiency. They need help everywhere, and a player like Moss, at his age and cap number, and his mind-set when playing on a team that isn't contending, does them no good.

by Mike (not verified) :: Wed, 10/18/2006 - 1:14am

Please god, let him go to the Pats and #2 be right.

Down with the most boring team in the NFL! DOWN!

by Jake (not verified) :: Wed, 10/18/2006 - 2:58am

It's not that Randy isn't working. He's working. I never said he wasn't working. He's just getting suspended.


by dryheat (not verified) :: Wed, 10/18/2006 - 10:09am

Well, I'd have to agree that, in a vacuum, the Pats WRs are one of the worse groups in the league (but I'm sorry, no way they're worse than Detroit), they strike me as Dilferian...when combined with Brady, a good OL, good TEs, and a running game, they're plenty good enough to win with.