Patriots lack deep threat after trading Moss to Vikings, but fans take his departure in stride

By Howard Ulman, AP
Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Fans take loss of Moss in stride as Pats move on

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Janna Robinson doesn’t need another Randy Moss jersey, even at its new bargain price.

The New England Patriots fan can pull her old purple No. 84 out of the closet now that one of her favorite players is back with the Minnesota Vikings.

She’ll be watching Moss catch passes from Brett Favre instead of Tom Brady, who moves on without his only proven deep threat.

“He’s played really well with Brady, but if he’s not happy, he won’t play well,” said Robinson, 41, of Alexandria, N.H., as she browsed the shelves of the Patriots Pro Shop in plain view of the end zone where Moss caught some of his 50 touchdowns in three-plus seasons with New England.

The shop wasted no time marking down Moss’ jerseys just hours after he was traded Wednesday with a seventh-round pick in 2012 for a third-rounder in 2011, according to a person with knowledge of the negotiations, speaking on condition of anonymity because the teams did not disclose terms of the deal.

The price dropped from $249.95 to $75 for an authentic version and from $79.95 to $25 for a replica jersey.

Moss, in the last year of a three-year, $27 million contract, had said several times that he didn’t think the Patriots would re-sign him.

Less than an hour after their season-opening 38-24 win over the Cincinnati Bengals, Moss spoke for 16 minutes, nearly all about his contract and his feeling that he wouldn’t be with the team after this season. He said he was hurt but wasn’t mad.

Two days later, he told The Associated Press he “would love to” retire as a Patriot, but “If I do leave here, I want everything to be positive — that I was a good guy, I was well coached, well mannered, a good man in the locker room, a good teammate to be around.”

Coach Bill Belichick indicated that a trade had been under consideration for some time.

“Over the course of the past several months, I have spoken with Randy and his representative about Randy’s place on our team and his future in football,” Belichick said in a statement. “Consistent with my dealings with Randy from the day we acquired him through our conversation this morning, it has been honest, thoughtful and with great mutual respect.”

Moss set an NFL record with 23 touchdown catches in 2007 after being traded during that year’s draft by Oakland for a fourth-round pick. He had spent two years with the Raiders after seven with the Vikings, who took him in the first round in 1998.

The Patriots are tied for first with the New York Jets in the AFC East at 3-1 after beating the Miami Dolphins 41-14 on Monday night. For the first time in his Patriots career, Moss didn’t have a reception. He has nine catches, three for touchdowns, this season.

Now Belichick must do his game planning without Moss, but the timing of the trade in the Patriots’ bye week should help.

Brandon Tate, a third-round pick last year, likely will take Moss’ starting spot. The Patriots have two other youngsters at the position — Julian Edelman, a seventh-round pick last year, and Taylor Price, a third-round pick this year who was inactive the first four games.

Rookie tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez give Brady two other options.

Wes Welker has thrived since he and Moss joined the Patriots in 2007. The slot receiver’s 346 catches were the most in the NFL over the past three years. But without Moss, defenders are likely to pay more attention to Welker.

“He can’t play to an elite level outside the numbers. He can only play to an elite level inside the numbers and the hashes, because that’s the style of player he is,” said Cris Carter, a Vikings receiver in Moss’ first four seasons with the team from 1998-2001 and now an ESPN analyst. Brady “will be a great quarterback until he retires, but he will have to work extra hard. Wes Welker’s job just became a little bit harder.”

Last year, the Patriots defense received a youthful makeover when linebacker Tedy Bruschi and safety Rodney Harrison retired and defensive end Richard Seymour and linebacker Mike Vrabel were traded, all before the season started.

This year, the Patriots are without four major pieces of their offense. Running back Laurence Maroney was traded to Denver after the first game — and his jerseys were going for the same prices as Moss’ jerseys on Wednesday. Pro Bowl guard Logan Mankins hasn’t reported in a contract dispute and running back Kevin Faulk is out for the year with a knee injury.

Now Moss is gone.

A third-round pick in the Moss deal would give the Patriots two choices in each of the first four rounds of next year’s draft — plenty of chances to stockpile young players.

But what about this year?

“I feel really bad,” said Geri Braun, 66, of West Bath, Maine, another visitor to the Pro Shop. “They should have extended his contract. They’ll lose something on offense. They don’t have the experience. It makes a difference.”

Another shopper was more upbeat.

“I don’t feel too bad about it,” said Tony Chicoine, 27, a native of Worcester, Mass., who was wearing a Moss’ No. 81 Patriots jersey. “They got a third-round pick. … We won Super Bowls with (wide receivers) Troy Brown and Deion Branch. Belichick will find ways to win. He’s won without him.”

will not be displayed