If Randy Moss still has it, 2010 could be an exciting year in New England. As the future Hall of Famer plays out the final season of his three-year deal with the Patriots, we ask, how will Moss perform in a contract year?
Here's the thing: Moss has only played in one other true contract year — in 2007, when he and the Patriots took the NFL's record books and dumped a few cans of paint on them — so there isn’t a great body of work to use for reference.
Moss caught 98 passes for 1,493 yards and an NFL-record 23 touchdowns in 2007, which was his first in New England. In terms of receptions and yards, it was Moss' best season from 2004-09, and it was arguably the best season of his 12-year career.
After getting selected with the 21st pick in the 1998 draft, Moss signed a four-year contract reportedly worth as much as $10.5 million. In his first three seasons with the Vikings, he caught 226 passes for 4,163 yards and 43 touchdowns.
With freakish speed and leaping ability, Moss quickly emerged as the most dangerous wide receiver in the NFL, and he set himself up to be one of the highest-paid players in the league. The Vikings didn’t sleep on that notion and signed him to an eight-year extension worth $75 million — the most money ever doled out to a wide receiver — before the 2001 season, making sure Moss didn’t enter a contract year with the chance to spike his value on the free market.
Moss didn’t exactly slow down after signing a big-money deal — a good sign that he wasn’t solely driven by money — as he caught 299 passes for 4,212 yards and 34 touchdowns over his next three seasons. Obviously, things soured in Minnesota, leading to his trade to the Raiders, where Moss' production disappeared into Oakland's black hole.
However, Moss revitalized his career after his 2007 trade to the Patriots. He reworked his contract to take far less money, turning the final two years and $20 million into one year and $4.75 million, and dominated in the passing game with Tom Brady. The Patriots then signed Moss to a $27 million, three-year deal that was considered to be below what Moss could have earned in free agency.
So, here he is again in his second contract year. Moss, who turned 33 in February, recently fired his agent and seems to be gearing up to sign one last big-money deal. At the very least, he's willing to make himself a marketable commodity in the event of a 2011 lockout.
Moss had 83 catches for 1,264 yards and 13 touchdowns in 2009, which statistically was his second-best season in the last six years. With a healthier Brady and an eye for one more contract, expect Moss to do bigger things in 2010.
NESN.com will be answering one Patriots question every day until
Wednesday, July 7: Is 2010 the year that Laurence Maroney will put it all together?
Friday, July 9: Who will be New England's most valuable draft pick from 2010?
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