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Viking shipped out

Moss is released by Minnesota

By Greg A. Bedard
Globe Staff / November 2, 2010

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FOXBOROUGH — In one of the more surprising in-season moves in recent National Football League history, Randy Moss was released by the Vikings yesterday, less than a month after the team acquired him from the Patriots for a third-round pick.

After several conflicting reports on what exactly Moss’s fate would be with the Vikings, the team released a statement last night from coach Brad Childress saying they were done with Moss.

“This decision was made based on what we thought was in the best interests of the Minnesota Vikings, both in the short and long term,’’ he said. “We wish Randy the best as he moves forward in his career.’’

Translation: “Our bad.’’

Could Moss wind up back with the Patriots? Could Coach Bill Belichick pull off one of the greatest swindles the NFL ever has seen (the mother of them all, the Herschel Walker deal, also involved the Vikings)?

Anything is possible.

Moss, 33, set the stage for his exit from the Patriots in large part because he wanted one final big-money contract. He knew it wasn’t going to come from the Patriots.

So Moss decided a return to his for mer haunt, to catch passes from the quarterback he always hoped to hook up with — Brett Favre — was the next-best option.

Only it didn’t take Moss long to learn the artificial turf in the Metrodome wasn’t greener.

That much was made clear in his rambling and bizarre postgame ode to all things Patriots and Belichick following the Vikings’ 28-18 loss to the Patriots Sunday.

There was Moss, wearing a Red Sox hat, telling the whole football world how great Belichick and the Patriots were, like a guy who had broken up with a girlfriend for all the wrong reasons, and then was hit with the cold, hard reality that he had it better before.

That he did.

Once Moss got the dollar signs out of his eyes, he could see 6-1 and 2-5 — the records of the Patriots and Vikings, respectively.

He could see 40-12, his record in three-plus seasons with the Patriots.

And 7-29, the combined record for Moss in his two seasons before New England with the Raiders, and the Vikings this time around.

Moss could see Patriots quarterback Tom Brady being back to his old self, and Favre just being old, a very distant memory of the gunslinger Moss badly wanted to play with in 2007.

Moss also saw that Childress was no Belichick when it came to game management and his grip on the team. When you go from the guy with seemingly all the answers to one with none, it doesn’t take long to notice the difference.

And now Moss sits with his tail tucked between his legs and likely wants to come back.

Before all of yesterday’s melodrama, Brady sounded like he wouldn’t mind a reunion after saying he missed Moss.

“Yeah, I certainly do,’’ Brady said in his weekly appearance on WEEI. “He’s a very unique player and a very good friend of mine. We shared a lot of personal conversation together about things happening in our life; that doesn’t go away once he’s on another team. I always am rooting for him and hoping he does really well. It just happened this year that he moved on. It’s just the way this league works now.’’

On the chalkboard, it makes sense for the Patriots to want Moss back — if he’s been snapped back into the worker bee mentality he carried in his first two seasons in New England.

Moss still commands double teams. He still opens up the middle of the field for an offense. Percy Harvin of the Vikings can attest to that. So can Wes Welker.

Statistically, the prospect of a Moss return is a mixed bag. Brady has completed a much higher percentage of his passes this season with Moss (69.7) than without him (60.2), and has had a higher touchdown to interception ratio (9/2 to 3/2). Brady has averaged slightly more yards after Moss (227.8 to 230.3).

For the team, the numbers are close on first downs, first downs passing, red-zone conversions, and average yards per play. The Patriots were much better on third downs when Moss was in the lineup (55.3 percent to 35.1).

That is a crucial statistic. But the one that trumps all is 3-0 — the Patriots’ record since Moss’s departure.

It’s hard not to deny that swapping a disgruntled Moss for a delighted-to-be-home Deion Branch has made a difference. The Patriots seem to be playing with a new-found confidence that harkens back to the blue-collar, all-for-one mentality that put them on top of the NFL mountain.

It’s where they are now. Without Moss.

Outside of a ‘don’t claim me because I’ll retire’ proclamation, Moss doesn’t have much of a say in whether he can return to the Patriots.

He has to pass through waivers, meaning the 30 other teams have a chance to get him before the Patriots.

The team that claims Moss will be on the hook for the approximately $3.39 million left on his contract for this season.

That might scare off enough teams.

Plenty could use Moss. The Seahawks, Broncos, Redskins, Rams, Bears, and Chiefs all could feel they are one piece away.

Of course the Jets and Dolphins could claim Moss in an uncapped year just to keep him away from the Patriots as they try to catch them in the AFC East.

Anything is possible.

The only absolute at this point is that the Vikings were so unhappy with Moss, they rid themselves of him for a second time.

Childress was probably so unhappy with Moss’s postgame comments — he angrily acted out behind the scenes when Favre similarly criticized him last season — and some questionable effort against the Patriots, that the coach thought it best to cut ties now and solidify his eroding power. If Moss walked at the end of the season, the most the Vikings were going to recoup was a fifth-round compensatory pick.

And you could add that to the possible Patriots bounty if Moss did somehow return to the team for the remainder of the season.

In that case, Belichick would wind up with Moss for nine games, Branch, and third- and fifth-round picks, all for the fourth they sent to Seattle for Branch.

Anything is possible.

Greg A. Bedard can be reached at gbedard@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @greg_a_bedard.

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