During the 2005 off-season, the Minnesota Vikings engaged in the second-greatest give-away in team history when they traded Randy Moss to the Oakland Raiders for disgruntled linebacker Napoleon Harris and the Raiders' first-round draft choice in the 2005 NFL draft.
The Vikings parlayed the Moss deal into one middle-linebacker bust and purported wide-receiver Troy Williamson, the number seven overall pick in the 2005 NFL draft. Had the Vikings selected Marcus Ware, Shawn Merriman, Aaron Rodgers, Roddy White, Logan Mankins, Vincent Jackson, or Frank Gore in the draft, that trade might not now look like the money dump that it was--freeing former Vikings' owner Red McCombs of 2005 obligations and putting them on the incoming ownership group in the form of a signing bonus for Williamson.
Instead, not only did the Vikings compound their gifting of Moss with the selection of Williamson, they proceeded to select an injured and well-reputed sloth in Erasmus James a slow-footed guard in Marcus Johnson, and a seventh-round reach in the third round in safety Dustin Fox.
Two years after the Vikings traded Moss for what amounted to nothing, the Raiders traded Moss to the Patriots for a fourth-round pick that became University of Cincinnati cornerback John Bowie. It's yet unclear whether the Vikings or Raiders came out further behind in their exchanges involving Moss.
What is clear, however, is that, despite local commentary to the contrary, the Vikings could have returned Moss to the Minnesota fold in the Spring of 2009 for a song. Only the wide-receiver-desperate Patriots were willing to offer anything for Moss and the Raiders, as wont as ever to disengage talent before driving it out, were only to happy to rid themselves of a receiver they believed to be on the decline at the age of 30. For their part, the Vikings expressed zero interest in Moss.
And so, Moss' career in New England began. In his first season playing with a real quarterback since leaving Minnesota, Moss had 98 receptions for 1,493 yards and 23 touchdowns--twenty more than he had in his final season in Oakland and six more than in his best season in Minnesota.
This season, Moss has 58 receptions for 898 yards and seven touchdowns. Over the past two games, he has accelerated his receiving pace, accumulating 326 yards and three touchdowns.
In Minnesota, meanwhile, Moss' counterpart, Bernard Berrian, has spent the better part of the 2009 season appearing disinterested, unprepared, and lobbying for his way off of a team that he ought to want to be a part of. On the season, Berrian has 30 receptions for 321 yards and three touchdowns. And while Moss trends upward, Berrian is heading in the opposite direction. In his last three games, Berrian has just eight receptions for 81 yards and a lone touchdown, including just three receptions for 22 yards against a Lions' team that conceded 340 passing yards to the Vikings--all despite being targeted no less than 12 times.
Conversely, in the number two spot for the Vikings stands Sidney Rice, a player nearly cut in pre-season for failing to blossom under Tarvaris Jackson. In addition to giving the Vikings yet another reason not to prolong Jackson's career, Rice has provided the Vikings everything that the team expected it was getting when signing Berrian to a six-year, $42 million deal with $16 million in guaranteed money in 2008. That same year, Moss, an unrestricted free agent, re-signed with the Patriots for three years and $27 million, with $12 million guaranteed.
Following yet another strong performance by Sidney Rice against the woeful Lions--Rice's third 100+ receiving game in his last four games and his first 200+ receiving game, it is tantalizing to ponder what the Vikings' offense might have been capable of were Adrian Peterson, Chester Taylor, Brett, Favre, Percy Harvin, and Randy Moss all on the field together.
If the Vikings can keep Favre healthy and coax two more seasons out of him, they might yet have an opportunity to find out.
Up Next: Dregs of the League.