The Randy Moss trade is a rare sports treat. An in-season story that few people saw coming and also breaks the traditional pattern of sports trade news–a first-place team giving away a big talent in the middle of the year. So why did they do it? And why now?The most obvious reason is the approaching October 19th trade deadline. The NFL’s early cutoff forces teams to make big personnel decisions early in the season, before they really know what their team is made of. The Patriots knew they wouldn’t be bringing Moss back next season no matter what. He wanted a long-term contract they weren’t willing to give. Moss admitted it publicly and asked for a way out privately. Once it became clear they had a grumpy wide-receiver on their hands–Moss reportedly had an “outburst” in the locker room during halftime of Monday’s game– the Patriots made their move.
But what about the fans? Most teams would never have the guts to dump a prolific superstar in the midst a potential playoff run, for fear of inciting a revolt. But the Patriots long ago established that no one on their roster (save QB Tom Brady) is untouchable. The team had just demolished a division rival on the road, without Moss making a single catch. His replacement returned a kickoff 103 yards for a touchdown. They can win without him (or at least, they won’t win any more often with him) and the Patriots are banking that their fans will understand that.
The Patriots have always preferred to build through draft picks and short-term veteran deals. A trade to the Vikings gives them two picks in each of the first four rounds of the 2011 Draft. The move may not have made sense to most teams, but it does to New England. They aren’t sentimental and don’t play favourites with veterans. Ask Richard Seymour or Mike Vrabel about that.
There is one more wrinkle that complicates this particular deal, but New England chose to overlook it: They play Minnesota in four weeks. So that will be fun.
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