Patriots will have to wait until start of free agency to re-sign Moss

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The chances seem good that Randy Moss will re-sign with the New England Patriots for 2008, and probably beyond that, and perhaps even finish his NFL tenure with the franchise that this season helped resurrect his slumping career.

In fact, Moss said as much here Tuesday during the Media Day session for Super Bowl XLII.

"I would love to finish my career [in New England], just for the fact of they have everything you want in a football organization," Moss said. "They handle things from the top, all the way to the bottom, and they do a good job of that."

But short of designating their star wide receiver as a franchise player, the Pats cannot preclude Moss from at least testing the unrestricted free agent market on Feb. 29, if he so desires.

As part of the April 29 trade that brought Moss to New England, the club adjusted the existing contract that he had with the Oakland Raiders, which had two seasons remaining on it. Scheduled to earn a base salary of $9.75 million in 2007 under that deal, Moss signed a one-year contract with the Patriots which included a signing bonus of $500,000 and a $2.5 million base salary.

He also earned performance and Pro Bowl bonuses totaling an additional $2 million.

But a technicality in the collective bargaining agreement, NFL and team officials confirmed on Tuesday, prohibits the Patriots from again adjusting Moss' contract before the start of free agency this spring. There were reports during the season that the Patriots had presented Moss and his representatives with a contract extension proposal late in the year, but that was not the case, since the club could not do so.

So unless New England uses the franchise tag to limit Moss' mobility, a move that can be made Feb. 7-21, he will be available as an unrestricted free agent and able to solicit offers from other teams.

The tender level for a franchise-designated wide receiver for 2008 has been set at $7.848 million.

New England is not opposed, recent history demonstrates, to employing the franchise marker to retain a player's rights, and the team did so last spring with cornerback Asante Samuel. But the Pats also experienced the downside of using the franchise designation, and the acrimony that often accompanies such a move, with Samuel.

The standout cornerback sat out all of the offseason activities and training camp before signing a one-year qualifying offer of $7.79 million just 12 days before the start of the regular season.

It's not known how Moss would react to the franchise tag. But coming off a career season, one in which he broke Jerry Rice's single-season record for touchdown receptions, he reiterated on Tuesday how much it has meant to him to play for a franchise that emphasizes common goals.

"The team concept is not just on the field, it's inside the locker room," Moss said. "For me to be able to say that I would love to become a New England Patriot and finish my career here... that is something that I can really believe in."

In starting all 16 games in 2007, Moss had 98 receptions for 1,493 yards and 23 touchdowns.

Senior writer Len Pasquarelli covers the NFL for ESPN.com.