Few players in the NFL really have star power. Randy Moss has it. How do we know? He makes you look again and again and again.
|Randy Moss had 1,437 yards receiving and caught 15 touchdown passes in 2000.|
There aren't many of those guys in the NFL, individual players who actually demand your attention when they're on the field; impact players who cause sleepless nights for opposing defensive coordinators. I can rattle off a few of those guys: Peyton Manning, Brett Favre, Kurt Warner, Marshall Faulk, Edgerrin James, and a healthy Fred Taylor. I can envision others rising into that category this year, like Terrell Owens and Eric Moulds.
What I'm saying is that Minnesota Vikings owner Red McCombs did the right thing this week when he personally finished negotiations by signing off on a reported eight-year, $75 million contract for Moss. Don't call me a hypocrite because of my column that was critical of Moss last year after the controversy created when my ESPN sidekick, Merril Hoge, presented visual evidence that Moss was dogging it on too many plays.
My point, and it will always be my point, is that we want our superstars to exhibit the same hunger and work ethic that has driven the greatness of Michael Jordan, Jerry Rice, Walter Payton, et al. Moss is lacking in that department. Even he admitted later that he takes plays off.
Mort breaks down Moss' deal:
Signing bonus: $10 million ($7 million upon signing, $3 million due March 2002)
2001 salary: $500,000
2002 salary: $500,000
Option bonus, March 2003: $8 million
2003 salary: $5 million
2004 salary: $5.75 million
2005 salary: $7.25 million
2006 salary: $8.25 million
2007 salary: $8.75 million
2008 salary: $11.25 million
Pro Bowl bonus: $250,000 for last five years (2004-2008)
If Pro Bowls are achieved:
Escalator of $1.5 million for '07
Escalator of $2 million for '08
Moss also ended the season on a notorious note when he questioned whether the Vikings would ever make the Super Bowl. You wonder whether his attitude will go totally haywire now that he has riches -- although he did average $1.1 million per year in his first three seasons. Going from almost nothing in his bank account to $1 million annually already put that card in play.
There is no denying his talent or star power. I have laughed all offseason when people have asked if Moss would be traded or let go after 2001 if he doesn't get a new contract. You don't let great players leave, especially great, young players who have star power. It is still unfathomable to me that the Atlanta Falcons allowed Deion Sanders to leave after his fifth season because of a contract impasse.
Moss is getting a ton of dough. Is it really $75 million? I don't care. There will be a new deal, I'm sure, in another four or five years. In fact, official contract figures prove that Moss' deal is realistically a six-year, $46 million deal because the last two years are too exorbitant not to restructure. So when you consider that he would have made about $3 million this year without this deal, it's $43 million over six years in new money -- a shade over $7 million per year, which is market value for the best receiver in football.
Let us also not ignore that the NFL is the one league where the real superstars -- or drawing cards -- fall way short of the other professional leagues in terms of payola.
Oh, sure, $18 million in bonus money is a lot. But, come on: Moss was a bargain when the Vikings were able to select the wide receiver with the 21st pick in the 1998 draft. He cost the Vikings a $2 million signing bonus.
Then he went out and caught 69 passes for 1,313 yards and 17 touchdowns as a rookie. He followed that up with 80 catches for 1,413 yards and 11 TDs in a '99 season that saw uncertainty at quarterback between Randall Cunningham and Jeff George. Then, last year, he went for 1,437 yards and 15 TDs on 77 catches with a rookie quarterback in Daunte Culpepper.
He has been voted to the Pro Bowl in all three seasons. Go look up his biographical data -- he has been incredibly productive. In fact, he was one of the all-time steals in the draft when the Vikings took him 21st in 1998.
You want to talk about wasted money? Between Ryan Leaf and Andre Wadsworth -- the second and third picks in the '98 draft -- the Chargers and Cards threw away more than $20 million in signing bonuses. Do the math. That's a difference of $18 million between what they received and what Moss got as a rookie. Moss has paid off handsomely.
In fact, of the 20 players selected ahead Moss in 1998, only he has made the Pro Bowl all three years. Only three others -- Manning, Taylor and Charles Woodson -- have earned a trip to Hawaii.
Here's the '98 draft breakdown:
1. Peyton Manning, QB, Indianapolis Colts. Hit it big with the best QB in the game. Pro Bowls: 2.
2. Ryan Leaf, QB, San Diego Chargers. Too sad to even discuss. Now with the Bucs. Pro Bowls: 0.
3. Andre Wadsworth, DE, Arizona Cardinals. Holdout, injuries, surgeries, and no longer with the Cards. Pro Bowls: 0.
4. Charles Woodson, CB, Oakland Raiders. No real argument. Woodson has become one of the game's elite cover corners. Pro Bowls: 2.
5. Curtis Enis, RB, Chicago Bears. Caught the Penn State bug. Burned and crashed with injuries and, some suggest, a lack of desire. No longer with team. Pro Bowls: 0.
6. Grant Wistrom, DE, St. Louis Rams. He has developed into a pretty good player, so no real knocks. Pro Bowls: 0..
7. Kyle Turley, OT, New Orleans Saints. Saints coach Jim Haslett will tell you Turley is the best RT in the game. Pretty close, that's for sure. Pro Bowls: 0.
8. Greg Ellis, DE, Dallas Cowboys. He was a solid player when he suffered a nasty broken leg in playoffs (remember when the Cowboys were a playoff team?). Pro Bowls: 0.
9. Fred Taylor, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars. Tom Coughlin almost traded up for Enis. Good thing. Taylor is an impact player, but must stay healthy. Pro Bowls: 1.
10. Duane Starks, CB, Baltimore Ravens. He has been an up-and-down player who emerged as a potential Pro Bowl corner during the Ravens' Super Bowl run. Pro Bowls: 0.
11. Tra Thomas, OT, Philadelphia Eagles. He's a very good left tackle in the NFL, which speaks well of him. Pro Bowls: 0.
12. Keith Brooking, LB, Atlanta Falcons. After two so-so years, was emerging as a possible star when he broke his foot in 2000. Pro Bowls: 0.
13. Takeo Spikes, LB, Cincinnati Bengals. Good player who only needs consistency to reach the next level. Pro Bowls: 0.
14. Jason Peter, DE, Carolina Panthers. He was undersized when the Panthers took him. He's still undersized and always injured. Pro Bowls: 0.
15. Anthony Simmons, LB, Seattle Seahawks. He's OK with some upside. Pro Bowls: 0.
16. Kevin Dyson, WR, Tennessee Titans. His biggest catch and play was on "Home Run Throwback." Blew out knee last year. Pro Bowls: 0.
17. Brian Simmons, LB, Cincinnati Bengals. Like most in Cincinnati, he is obscure. Pro Bowls: 0.
18. Robert Edwards, RB, New England Patriots. Hard to knock after 1,000-yards-plus rookie year. Then the devastating injury. Pro Bowls: 0.
19. Vonnie Holliday, DE, Green Bay Packers. A pleasant surprise as a rookie, but not much lately. Ex-GM Ron Wolf won't lie. He missed on a chance to steal Moss. Pro Bowls: 0.
20.Terry Fair, CB, Detroit Lions. Small, and hasn't really been the kick returner the Lions hoped for. Pro Bowls: 0.
29.John Avery, RB, Miami Dolphins. We're throwing this one in there because Jimmy Johnson traded the 19th pick to Green Bay just before the draft got under way. Avery was a bust. Pro Bowls: 0.