Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Another Walker Deal?

The Minnesota Vikings and Oakland Raiders announced today that they have agreed, in principle, to a deal that will send Vikings' wide receiver Randy Moss to the Raiders in exchange for a player and two draft picks. The deal, sure to be one of the most discussed in Vikings' history, marks either a shift in organizational philosophy or a continuation of the Vikings' front office trend of misplaying the market.

Why the Trade Happened

Apparently, the Vikings' organization was much more exasperated with Randy Moss than they have let on. Sure we knew that Moss had become trade bait following season-ending antics that further sullied his reputation as a less-than-team player, but for the past two weeks the Vikings have insisted that any trade for Moss would be a trade for value. Today's deal confirms the contrary.

But add to the Moss-as-malcontent theory the fact that Moss is the Vikings' highest paid player despite touching the ball only a select few times a game and the Vikings had reason to consider this move. High salaries go to quarterbacks or middle linebackers these days, not to receivers. And despite Moss' ability to change the dynamics of the opposing defense, his talents either were overpaid in Minnesota--particularly when taking into account the lockerroom discontent that he apparently had sown--or the Vikings' coaching staff simply has never learned how to use Moss to get the most out of his abilities. Or both.

What the Vikings Will Receive

While the deal sending Moss to the Raiders has yet to be finalized, the terms are set. In exchange for Moss, the Vikings will receive linebacker Napoleon Harris, the Raiders' first-round selection in the 2005 draft (number seven overall), and a "late round" Raiders' draft choice in 2005. That looks more like an NBA-style salary/malcontented player dump than it does an NFL trade of a sterling wide-receiver talent.

Harris is clearly the "jewel" of this deal from the Vikings' end. But, following an outstanding rookie season with 81 tackles in 15 games, an even better second year with 109 tackles in 16 starts, Harris' numbers slid to 60 tackles in 14 games (nine starts). That's a bit less than in his rookie season when prorated over 16 games and factoring in the number of additional plays Harris missed not starting six of 16 games in 2004, and an even more significant disparity when juxtaposed with his 2004 numbers.

While most NFL scouts consider Harris an upgrade over the Vikings' current stable of linebackers, that says more about the Vikings' dearth of talent at linebacker than it does about Harris. But even more alarming is that Harris was actually less productive last season than the Vikings' much-maligned middle linebacker E.J. Henderson. Even with prorated figures, Harris cannot touch Henderson's 94 tackles in 2005. The only hope is that Harris is at least a better decision-maker and play caller.

Given his declining production, it appears that, at best, Harris gives the Vikings a dose of ability at linebacker, and a linebacker who can play in the middle. That helps, but it does not give the Vikings the type of impact player that they should have held out for in a trade for Moss.

The same likely will be said of whomever the Vikings select with the seventh overall pick in this draft. In a draft not considered particularly deep with high-end talent--a draft in which no real star stands out--the number seven pick is as likely to yield a player with several serviceable, if unremarkable years in the NFL, as it is to yield a star. In fact, when one considers that the Vikings likely will draft for need with the seventh pick (rather than taking the best available player) the prospect of the Vikings picking up a great talent at number seven is even less likely.

And if the draft is top light, imagine the crop at the bottom of the draft order, where the Vikings will be using their second pick from Oakland. Could there be another Brian Russell waiting in the wing? Ugh. The Vikings might find something here, but the odds are long.

How the Trade Can be Viewed as a Success

The Vikings can still put a reasonable face on this trade if several things happen. First, they must sign a high-end wide receiver in free agency. The two most notable free agent receivers this year are Derrick Mason and Plaxico Burress. Mason is a legitimate number one receiver and would fit nicely with Nate Burleson in the two-receiver set. Burress might emerge as a legitimate number one receiver, but right now he looks a lot like a Burleson. A combination of Burleson and Burress might be enough to complement the running game and produce some offense.

In addition to picking up a wide receiver in the draft the Vikings must use the money that they will save on Moss' contract and the money that they have stored in the cap kitty to sign more talent on defense. That will require the Vikings to sign at least two more linebackers, another cornerback, a safety, and a defensive end. The talent will be there in free agency, the question remains, however, whether Red or Reggie or someone else will bother to make the requisite offers.

If the Vikings take care of the defense, Moss' absence will be less remarkable, save for the fact that the Vikings may have few, if any, deep plays, and may find the sledding a bit tougher between the tackles when facing straight up defense. But even defensive changes will mean little if the Vikings do not find a starter with the number seven overall pick in this year's draft. Who that might be will be the subject of tomorrow's column.

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

This trade means one thing to me. The Vikings have been full of crap for the last few months. This trade was Moss and Moss' attitude to the Raiders because there is no way the talent is equal.

At the time I felt Culpepper's comments at the Pro Bowl told me how the players really felt about Moss. If I was a QB I would do everything I could to keep the NFL's best reciever around unless I really thought his personality was a problem. I wouldn't say something along the lines of "Well I like him but I could see why they would want to trade him."

Geek I officially join you on the sign Derrick Mason Bandwagon. Adding Mason and getting Jimmy and Rosenthal back keeps the Vikes a top 8-10 offense in my opinion.

Vikes Geek said...

There is a considerable amount of discussion on the national wire regarding how this deal went down (though it has yet to become official). Unfortunately, most of it misses what this trade says about Minnesota's front office.

It is clear that the Vikings have been looking to deal Moss for some time now. At the end of the season, Tice pulled a Tice by refusing to comment on Moss' status. In Tice speak, that meant the Vikings were looking to deal their enigmatic receiver. The Vikings all but made that official in the following weeks.

When it became apparent, however, that dealing to deal put the Vikings in a position of weakness when it came to brokering a deal, the Vikings suddenly shifted course. Red said Moss would stay with the team, the Vikings said they were no longer interested in dealing unless an exceptional deal came along (which did not happen), and Reggie Fowler intoned that he wanted Moss to stick around. Clearly, this was merely posturing--the type of posturing that the dimwitted Vikings' front office should have engaged in at the outset rather than as a last gasp attempt to unload Moss, the transparency of which obviously was not lost on potential suitors, such as Baltimore.

This suggests that, as long as the Vikings' current personell team is in place--a personnel team that believed that E.J. Henderson was the answer at middle linebacker, that Morten Andersen was the answer at placekicker, and that Derek Ross was a good pickup--the Vikings will continue to struggle in resolving player personnel issues.

As for Mason, I have noted that I like his production and consider him a legitimate number one receiver. But there are some more intriguing alternatives. See tomorrow's column!

VG

Anonymous said...

Does one off-year officially put the guy over the hill?

I'm not trying to be snarky I just don't know if that's how it works in football.

That said I hope for Vikings fans sake that it does affect attendance because then you have some incentive to improve.

Still I've said before Moss was far more valuable to me than the entirety of the front office so I would look at this trade with regret.

CDW said...

I just read some online coments from fans on startribune.com. One stated that he will no longer be a fan if teh Vikings trade Randy Moss. Maybe I am just old, but I do not understand this mentality. I am a fan because I grew up with teh Vikings watching the games on Sunday with my Grandmother. I am a fan because of years and years of disappointment. I am a fan because my hero was Tommy Kramer, an old rummy quarterback.

I guess I always condidered Randy Moss part of a new generation. He is a great player that I cheered for, I actually thought that his 'moon danc' was pretty funny. But I could never see myself wearing a Randy Moss jersey. Maybe Randy was that imperfect 'Two Minute Tommy' hero to a lot of younger fans, I don't know.

I think most people are mad more because the Vikings didn't make a good trade than for losing a much loved player. If the Vikings improve their defense and pick up another decent receiver, I think the trade won't wind up mattering too much. It was just hoped that a lot of that could be accomplished with this trade.

vikinghooper said...

This trade makes me sick.

Moss is a distraction to the Vikings because the talent around him doesn't measure up.

I would have left the field early after that debacle in Washington ( Portis, Smoot, and Arrington sat out).

I desperately want to see a Viking Super Bowl victory, but I hope Moss gets one too.

Anonymous said...

Most everyone agrees the trade was one-sided. Is there any chance of improving it? Suppose Fowler calls Tagliabue and complains. He's got a real beef. He agreed to buy an asset the value of which has suddenly dropped. Fowler ought to be pissed. He should ask Tagliabue either to sweeten the deal, or void it as not in the best interests of football.

Anonymous said...

Instead of blaming Moss's personality, we should blame the Vikings organization for not handling Moss correctly. The Vikings coaches and staff are incompetent. Red McCombs allowed their incompetence to continue indefinitely. Red got us Randy. Now Red has run him out of town.

Moss is a great football player.

He has physical gifts that put him in a special class of wide receivers.

To utilize his physical gifts optimally requires a coach who (1) understands Moss's gifts, and (2) is creative and smart enough to use Moss as something different than just another wideout.

Moss had that coach in Brian BIllick. After he left, Moss never had as much of an impact on the field. Scott Linehan and the rest were good coaches, but not good enough to make the best use of Moss.

Then there is "Idiot Coach" Tice. He only thinks of football in conventional terms. Yes, the basics are where it begins, but to take it to the next level, you have to get the most out of every player, and you must think creatively.

Now Randy Moss has a chance to go to another team and what is without doubt a better coach. This has me very excited. He now has a chance to get out of the swamp that the Vikings organization has become. I will cheer for him to tear it up for the Raiders. I believe he will have his greatest years in Oakland and will surpass Jerry Rice's records. The Raiders will win the Super Bowl, and the Vikings will not.

As a Vikings fan for my whole life, I've never had so much despair over my team.

First, we do the Herschel Walker deal with the Cowboys. The hated Cowboys. Thanks to that, they won three Super Bowls and the Vikes got diddly squat.

Now, we do this.

The Vikings are cursed.

It might not have started with Jim Marshall's wrong way run, but after the "Hail Mary" play, four lost Super Bowls, four lost NFC Championship Games, Mike Tice's draft-day fiasco, Tom Clancy's attempt to buy the Vikings, the very existence of the Metrodome, and the dysfunctional love-hate relationship between the fans and the players, it's safe to say the Vikings are cursed.

I'm still a Vikings fan, although at this point I'm putting away my cares and worries about this team, because it's hard to take myself seriously anymore when I just cheer for the laughingstock of the NFL.

Vikes Geek said...

You sound unhappy.

I agree that the front office is a farce. To date, they have been given far too much credit for putting together a "young team with potential" and have been far too underscrutinized for selecting too many identical players at key positions and too many players that have failed to materialize as NFL-caliber players.

Part of the problem is that the Vikings have no GM. It is unclear who calls the shots and guys with little experience, like Tice and Studwell, appear to have as much say as experienced officials working for real teams.

Outside of Cincinnati, San Francisco, Detroit, and Oakland, a strong case can be made that the Vikings are the most poorly run franchise in the NFL. The problem begins with Red, but, unfortunately, it does not end with Red.

Worse yet, if the NFL approves the sale of the Vikings to the Fowler group, it is unclear how the Vikings will improve much. Fowler has already stated that the Vikings are not viable without a new stadium so he has already couched his prospective tenure in terms that strongly favor his continuation of the Red McCombs line. At best, that means that, even assuming that Fowler has the means (which he is all but saying he does not), he will be unwilling to spend money until there is a new stadium built. That means the Vikings stay status quo or regress until at least 2009.

In a perfect world, I own the Vikings. In a lesser world, I am the GM. In reality, I am merely wealthy enough to be a fan. That's sad. I feel ya.

VG

Anonymous said...

Personaly i am upset with this trade but if it's going to happen, its going to. I at least think they should get what hes worth. At a minimum we should have this years 1st round draft pick and next years along with 1 to 2 defensive starters. All Red cares about is money. He has no love for the game or the fans.

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