Five reasons why Randy Moss won’t be back with the Patriots
|02.13.12 at 4:51 pm ET|
Randy Moss announced Monday morning that he hopes to return to the NFL in 2012. While he will inevitably be linked to the Patriots when it comes to a possible return to the NFL, here are five reasons why Moss won’t be walking through that door in Foxboro any time soon:
1. Moss’s skills have declined: Moss had a combined 28 catches for the three teams he played for in 2010 (nine for the Patriots, six for Tennessee and 13 for Minnesota). For most receivers in their thirties, that sort of stat line is a red flag, and that was more than a year ago. And history tells us that any time a player on the other side of 30 takes that much time away from the game, the skill set just isn’t there when they return. In his prime, Moss was a freakish athlete who did things on a football field that almost no one had ever seen before. (His 2007 season was one of the best of all time.) But the 35-year-old Moss isn’t going to be the same guy after a year away. It remains to be seen how he’d come to terms with his diminished skills (and role), and whether or not be accept a different job other than designated deep threat.
2. The Patriots offense has changed: When Moss was traded in October 2010 to Minnesota, it was the first step in a complete overhaul of the New England offense. Prior to that, the Patriots passing game could stretch the field and taking their shots deep. Now, the Patriots are more of a horizontal passing game, with slot receiver Wes Welker one of the best in the league when it comes to going over the middle, and tight ends Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski now a complementary set of tight ends the likes of which the league has never seen. Deion Branch is not the receiver he once was (he no longer has the kind of wheels that he used to have), but has managed to get by on smarts and dependability. Even if Welker and/or Branch do not return, it seems unlikely the Patriots would try and reintroduce Moss into the offense. Remember — the Patriots had their opportunity to re-sign Moss last year. When they needed another receiver, they went for Tiquan Underwood instead of Moss, which should tell you all you need to know about where they think of Moss’ skill set at this point.
3. The Patriots must get younger at wide receiver: New England needs to go in the other direction at the receiver position. Branch (32), Welker (30) and Chad Ochocinco (34) are all closer to the end of their careers than the beginning. While the Patriots are a relatively young bunch at all of the other skill positions, they are starting to show their collective age at wide receiver, and the return of the 35-year-old Moss does nothing to make them younger. The free-agent market for wide receivers also doesn’t help Moss — it’s a group that includes Vincent Jackson, DeSean Jackson, Reggie Wayne, Marques Colston, Stevie Johnson, Dwayne Bowe and Welker, all of whom are younger than Moss.
4. His return would impede the progress of young pass catchers like Hernandez and Gronkowski: In 2012, the two young tight ends combined to form one of the most dynamic offensive options in the game. With Moss on the scene, that would mean fewer chances in the passing game for both Hernandez and Gronkowski, which would certainly set their development back.
5. The Patriots know that with Moss, you’re always living on borrowed time, and most of the time, on his terms: Since the end of the 2007 season, the Patriots knew they were in for a short marriage with Moss, one that ultimately came to an end early in the 2010 season following a much-discussed incident with offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien. At some point along the way, Moss transitioned from someone who was clearly interested in putting the team first to someone who was worried about himself and his numbers. (Remember this?) With the Patriots having spent the better part of the last two years meticulously building a positive infrastructure in the locker room, it would be a risk to reintroduce a historically combustible individual like Moss back into that environment.
Moss is still beloved by many in New England. He showed up to owner Robert Kraft’s house as Kraft sat shiva following the death of his wife, and Kevin Faulk told NESN in an interview that Moss was waiting for him in his driveway a week ago when the running back returned from the Super Bowl. In addition, Patriots Bill Belichick — who has had plenty of opportunities to publicly lambaste Moss — continues to have nothing but good things to say about the receiver. Meanwhile, Moss has taken every chance to tell everyone how much he loved his time in New England with Tom Brady and Belichick.
But even with all that, don’t look for Moss to rejoin Brady and Belichick. The bottom line is that Moss needs the Patriots more than they need him. And considering the New England passing game has enjoyed unparalleled success since he was shipped out of town 16 months ago, at this point in Moss’ career, the risk far outweighs the reward.
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