Moss' career arc, legacy unique

Posted Aug. 01, 2011 @ 2 p.m.
Posted By Mike Wilkening

WR Randy Moss, currently an unrestricted free agent, will retire, ESPN's Adam Schefter reported Monday.

"After weighing his options and contemplating offers, he's decided to retire," Moss' agent, Joel Segal, told Schefter.

Moss, 34, caught 954 passes for 14,858 yards and 153 touchdowns in 13 NFL seasons. He played for New England, Minnesota and Tennessee in 2010, catching 28 passes for 393 yards and five TDs.

Moss' legacy is complex. His athletic gifts were rare, but he was also an exceptional student of the game. His career began with a bang in Minnesota but looked to be on the wane after two disappointing seasons in Oakland from 2005-06. Then, in a remarkable turnaround, he again emerged as one of the game's most dynamic talents in New England.

Moss' exits from his various clubs are also part of his story. The Vikings dealt him in '05 for a first-round pick and released him last season after a disappointing second stint, one that lasted all of four games and was marked by controversy, including a memorable final game at New England in which he lauded Patriots head coach Bill Belichick in the post-game press conference. The Patriots, in a stunning move, had traded Moss to Minnesota earlier in October.

The Titans claimed him off waivers, hoping to spark a passing game that had lost WR Kenny Britt to a hamstring injury, but Moss was a nonfactor in his time in Tennessee.

Nevertheless, Moss ranks as one of the top wide receivers of his generation.

Selected in the first round by the Vikings in 1998 after unexpectedly sliding to the bottom half of Round One on Draft Day, Moss immediately proved a dynamic playmaker, catching a pair of TDs in his debut vs. Tampa Bay and scoring 17 TDs in a stellar rookie season, one that saw Minnesota break the single-season record for points scored — a mark later broken by the '07 Patriots, for whom Moss also starred. (He led both teams in TDs in those seasons.)

Twice more he would catch at least that many TD passes, hauling in 111 passes for 1,632 yards and 17 scores in '03 for Minnesota and 98 passes for 1,493 yards and an incredible 23 scores for the Patriots, who rolled through the regular season and AFC playoffs without a loss in '07 before being upset by the Giants in the Super Bowl.

If Moss indeed reaches the Hall of Fame, his stint with the Patriots may well have pushed his candidacy over the top. He hauled in 50 TDs in a little more than three seasons with New England. His acquisition also bolstered the already lofty reputation of Belichick. New England surrendered but a fourth-round pick for Moss in '07 and later received a third-round pick from Minnesota for Moss last year.

Moss' briliance helped enhance careers of several quarterbacks. Randall Cunningham threw a career-best 34 TDs in 1998, Moss' first season. Vikings QB Daunte Culpepper became a star during Moss' time with the Vikings. Patriots QB Tom Brady had three Super Bowl titles to his credit before playing with Moss, but in his first season with the gifted wideout, he threw an NFL-record 50 TD passes.

If Moss is permanently retired, the Pro Football Hall of Fame can first officially consider his candidacy in voting on the Class of 2016.