For players, the NFL is a difficult thing to walk away from, but perhaps, even harder still to return to.
With an average shelf-life of three or four years, few NFL players can expect to come back from retirement, especially after a 13-year career.
Randy Moss, a player as famous for his legendary play as he is infamous for his antics and erratic personality, has decided to return to the NFL after retiring for a full season. He signed with the San Francisco 49ers the night before NFL free agency opened for business.
While many in Ninerland may lament this as a lame-duck signing, there are clear signs to point out a forthcoming strong return for the future Hall of Famer.
Unlike his kindred spirit Terrell Owens, Moss' attempt to return to the league does not appear to be financially motivated, but rather by an unfulfilled desire to continue playing and chasing a championship. Moss has rubbed elbows with a championship countless times in his career, so if that is his reason for coming back, 49er fans know they're getting a player who is all-in.
Moss must be in at least decent shape, otherwise his un-retirement would have gone the way of Owens and former New York Giant Tiki Barber, and everyone can rest assured that Jim Harbaugh is not going to sign out-of-shape deviants to his revitalized Niners.
Moss can help San Francisco in numerous ways, not the least of which is providing another legitimate downfield threat for their 2012 quarterback to throw to. Their passing attack—and overall offense—was rather anemic during the 2011 season, forging a path to the NFC title game with dominant defense. Moss will look to change that by allowing third-year receiver Michael Crabtree to play his more natural style working inside the numbers, while he and Vernon Davis spread the field.
Moss will be a big help to whatever quarterback is throwing on the 2012 49ers. If it is Alex Smith, he will be able to help the former No. 1 overall pick continue his resurgence, and if it is Colin Kaepernick, he should provide a nice safe target.
Most importantly of all, the 49ers might have made this investment simply to make a run at Peyton Manning. With Reggie Wayne having re-signed in Indianapolis, San Francisco needs a wide receiver capable of luring the future Hall of Famer to their franchise. Manning should be highly intrigued by the prospect of throwing to Moss, Davis and Crabtree and being backed up by their monster defense.
If the signing helps the Niners land the mega free agent, Moss can flop, and his signing will have still been worth it.
This is a man who holds NFL records for rookie and non-rookie single-season touchdown receptions, who apparently is in great shape, could be highly motivated and has had a full year to let his body heal from the rigors of football. Whatever his price, the San Francisco 49ers may have gotten away with murder on this one.