Convinced in discussions with Randy Moss that he believes his NFL legacy is tied to winning a Super Bowl and not to individual accomplishments, the New England Patriots on Sunday acquired the electrifying but enigmatic wide receiver from the Oakland Raiders in exchange for a fourth-round draft choice.
The deal, which sent the Raiders the 110th selection overall in the weekend draft, was completed when Moss passed the Patriots-administered physical examination after arriving in the Boston area on Sunday morning. With the draft choice acquired in the deal, Oakland chose University of Cincinnati cornerback John Bowie.
Oakland and New England officials conducted on-and-off negotiations for the last several days. At several points Saturday, the trade talks collapsed, only to be resuscitated every time. The Raiders, who acquired Moss from Minnesota in a 2005 trade, have been shopping the wide receiver much of the offseason.
"We felt this was the best scenario for both the Raiders and
Randy," Oakland coach Lane Kiffin told The Associated Press. "We wish him nothing but the best."
Far more important to coach Bill Belichick than any financial concessions by Moss, though, are the promises by the nine-year veteran receiver that he will fit into the Patriots' culture, an atmosphere in which players are expected to subjugate personal performance for team goals. Moss has long been one of Belichick's favorite players, in part because of his competitive nature and desire to step to the forefront at critical junctures of games, but the Pats' coach would not have made the deal without being comfortable that it is a good fit for everyone.
"Just really last night me and coach Belichick really
talked for the first time about what's been going on," Moss told The Associated Press. "He asked me how excited I [would be] if the opportunity would
present itself for me to become a Patriot and, really, I was
overwhelmed because I didn't expect to hear from coach Belichick."
As a condition of the trade, Moss agreed to restructure and perhaps even extend his current contract for both cash-flow and salary cap reasons. His contract calls for base salaries of $9.75 million in 2007 and $11.25 million in 2008.
"I've made a lot of money and I still have money in the bank. So by me coming to an organization such as the New England Patriots, why would money be a factor?" Moss said in a conference call. "I'm still in awe that I'm a part of this organization."
Sources said that Belichick has discussed the acquisition of Moss with several key leaders and that the veterans to whom he spoke were on board with the deal. The feeling is that the New England locker room includes enough acknowledged leaders and high-character guys that Moss will not pose a threat.
"Bill and [vice president of player personnel] Scott [Pioli] have shown that they can assemble players, especially veteran players, who can acclimate to our culture," club owner Robert Kraft told The Associated Press in a telephone interview. "If people don't adjust to our standards, they won't be here."
That said, adding Moss, who will be playing for his third different team in four seasons and who now has been traded twice in three years, clearly involves some risk. Belichick and New England officials apparently have been candid in apprising Moss that there will be a zero-tolerance approach, and that the kind of behavior he has manifested at times in the past will not be acceptable.
Moss, 30, had not participated in any of the offseason conditioning sessions conducted by first-year Oakland head coach Lane Kiffin and the suspicion was that he would not show up for the start of training camp. Hoping to keep any distractions for his young head coach to a minimum, Raiders' owner Al Davis decided that Moss had to go.
Late last week, Kiffin himself initiated phone calls to teams around the league, attempting to drum up interest in Moss. The Green Bay Packers are believed to have shown interest, but the two sides could never get together on a deal. So intent was Oakland on dealing Moss that the Raiders actually contacted officials from division-foe Denver to gauge interest. The two teams, and specifically Davis and Broncos coach Mike Shanahan, are bitter rivals.
To pave the way for the Moss deal, the Raiders late Saturday night acquired wide receiver Mike Williams in a trade with Detroit, a deal that also sent quarterback Josh McCown to Oakland. The Lions' first-round pick in 2005, Williams played at Southern Cal, where he was coached by Kiffin.
Acquiring Moss, who has been explosive on the field and combustible off it at times, might perhaps represent the defining moment of an offseason in which Belichick and Pioli have worked to dramatically upgrade the team's dubious wide receiver corps.
New England added former Miami wideout Wes Welker in a trade and signed unrestricted free agents Donte Stallworth (Philadelphia) and Kelley Washington (Cincinnati). In 2006, the Patriots had only two wide receivers, Reche Caldwell (61 catches) and Troy Brown (43), with more than 25 receptions. The New England passing game statistically ranked No. 12 in the league, but lacked a big-play component that Belichick now hopes Moss can provide.
In nine seasons, and 138 games, Moss has 676 receptions for 10,700 yards and 101 touchdowns. The five-time Pro Bowl performer and former Marshall star, who was drafted by Minnesota in the first round in 1998, is the only player in league history to register 1,000 or more receiving yards in each of his first six seasons in the league.
Moss had 100-plus catches in both the 2002 and 2003 campaigns and has six seasons in which he rang up 10 or more touchdown catches. He is, however, coming off a 2006 season in which he was often injured and had 42 receptions for 553 yards and three touchdowns, career lows in all those categories.
Len Pasquarelli is a senior writer for ESPN.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.