Time is right for Ravens to consider risk (and reward) of adding Moss

February 14, 2012 | Luke Jones

Time is right for Ravens to consider risk (and reward) of adding Moss

When Randy Moss announced the news of his intention to return to the NFL in 2012, I tried to dismiss him as an option for the Ravens as quickly as I could.

I just didn’t want to consider him as a real possibility to come to Baltimore.

The poor attitude, playing for three teams in his final season, and his turning 35 on Monday are all strikes against him. Not being able to help himself, Moss took to his Twitter account on Tuesday to fire back at former Minnesota Vikings teammate Cris Carter, who called the seven-time Pro Bowl receiver’s “quit mechanism” unlike any other superstar he’s been around.

The character blemishes are there, and there’s no way to overlook them. The guy can be a clown, and that’s putting it kindly.

His eye-popping numbers worthy of the Pro Football Hall of Fame include 153 touchdowns and 14,858 yards in 13 seasons, but you’re not getting the Moss of 1998 or even 2007 when he made a league-record 23 touchdown catches in his first season with the New England Patriots. His 2010 season split between New England, Minnesota, and Tennessee resulted in just 28 catches, 393 yards, and five touchdowns while wearing out his welcome in two places and making little impact at his final destination before announcing his retirement last summer.

But the past images of watching him sprint by a helpless cornerback or leap over a defender to haul in another touchdown are still too bright in my mind to ignore. Call me a sucker, but people said Moss was finished before he escaped football purgatory in Oakland and went on to have the best season of his career.

The possibility of the 6-foot-4 veteran still having something left in the tank cannot be overlooked by a team that was only a few tenths of a second away  — in holding onto a catch in the end zone — from a trip to the Super Bowl three weeks ago. Eliminating all other variables, the mere subtraction of the disappointing Lee Evans and his near-$6 million cap number and the addition of Moss at a cheaper rate is enough to make you salivate at the possibilities.

Moss certainly can’t do any worse than four receptions in an injury-plagued season and failing to secure a championship-clinching catch in the final seconds in Foxborough, right?

The first order of business before coach John Harbaugh and the Ravens should even consider welcoming Moss to Baltimore is determining where he stands physically. Can Moss still run with the speed to blow the top off a defense and force safeties to play deeper than they normally would? Would opposing defenses still have to account for him on every play?

If not, you run the risk of dealing with a broken-down former star with an ego still in its prime. In other words, the reward wouldn’t be worth the potential headaches.

But unlike the other volatile veteran receiver who will be on the open market, Terrell Owens, Moss isn’t returning from a serious knee injury. Other than the potentially cruel reality of being 35 years old and the question of how well he kept himself in shape over the last calendar year, there’s no reason to believe Moss isn’t up to the physical task of once again donning the cleats and striking fear in the hearts of opposing secondaries.

If the 40-time is right, you now move to the more complicated piece of the equation. You sit down with the combative receiver, reminding him he’s no longer in a position of power after a year away from the game. You press him to see how serious he is about not just playing again but also being part of a winning organization like he was in New England for three years — quite harmoniously — before an expiring contract flushed the relationship down the drain in year four. And reminding him of that heartbreaking defeat in Super Bowl XLII and how he’s never won a championship probably wouldn’t hurt, either.

You allow Moss to explain exactly what happened in his disastrous 2010 season.

And you listen.

“A team like the Ravens would be perfect,” Steve Wyche of the NFL Network told WNST.net on Tuesday. “I work with [former Patriots fullback] Heath Evans, who played with Randy in New England, and Heath said, ‘If Randy’s in a situation where he’s winning, where everybody on the team has bought in, he’s fantastic.’

“I talked to people at the Patriots when he was there. He was the leader. He was the guy who organized a lot of meetings. He was the guy who broke down the huddle.”

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