The Patriots have dealt superstar wide receiver Randy Moss to the Minnesota Vikings in exchange for a mere third-round pick, sending the fanbase into a wave of confusion. How could Robert Kraft and company deal such an important piece of New England's championship puzzle?
My answer for New England fans is simple—it's a young man's game.
The NFL has and always will be a young man's game. Randy Moss is 33 years old and in the final season of his contract. Moss was seeking a new deal but got no "love" from the organization. He even hinted that he would play elsewhere in 2011.
His play declined as a result, ending in a zero catch performance this past Monday night. He even hinted that he would play elsewhere in 2011. Therefore it makes perfect sense, long term, to acquire value for a guy who will be walking out the door in less than six months' time.
I know it may be hard for Pats' fans to swallow, but even New England teams have to rebuild. In the NFL, the best teams are built through the draft, not through free agency and trade, and the Patriots have not drafted well in recent years.
At this point players from the 2005-2008 draft classes should represent a solid nucleus of the team. In that span the New England Patriots have missed more often than not with their draft choices. James Sanders, Matt Wright, and Jerod Mayo are the only starters the Patriots have drafted in those four drafts (BenJarvus Green-Ellis was an undrafted free agent in '08). Those players are nothing to write home about. Meanwhile, the verdict is still out on the '09 and 10 draft classes.
The poor drafting exemplified above means one thing—the Patriots are rebuilding.
That's right Pats fans, your beloved team is not the dynasty it once was and it is subject to the same rebuilding process as every NFL team. Granted, the Patriots have the ability to rebuild on the fly because of Tom Brady, but this roster is in need of major reconstruction. The days of giving Bill Belichick the benefit of the doubt are long gone.
That being said, trading Randy Moss, who is in the last year of his contract, for a third round draft choice is a great move for a roster in need of reconstruction. Moss was clearly not giving it his all, and clearly upset at the lack of commitment the organization was showing him. So why not receive some compensation for him while you still can? It makes perfect sense.
Of course the downside is the severe short-term loss. Randy Moss is still an elite wide receiver in the NFL when he wants to be. He commanded the attention of the other team's top corner and often a second defensive back, freeing up Wes Welker and company to roam free. The loss of Moss will be felt.
I have long felt Wes Welker is a product of the system he plays in, and benefited greatly from having Randy Moss on the outside. With Moss gone, Welker now faces the task of taking on No. 1 cornerbacks.
In addition, the tight ends and running backs will not see as much open field as they have in recent weeks with Moss in Minnesota. While Brandon Tate has been impressive, he is in no position to fill Randy Moss's shoes any time soon.
The Patriots are in serious danger of missing the playoffs in 2010. In addition to the offensive concerns, New England still has serious issues of the defensive side of the ball, despite the signs of life it showed on Monday night.
The last time the Patriots won consistently without the elite wide receiving group, they had a great defense to rely on. The 2010 defense provides no such thing. If they are not able to win shootouts, they will need to be able to slow opposing offenses down, and I am not sure they have the capability to do that.
Tom Brady's hair can only take this team so far.
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