MINNEAPOLIS — When Randy Moss first came to Minnesota 12 years ago, he electrified a stagnant franchise and immediately turned the Vikings into Super Bowl contenders.
Now the Vikings need him to do it again.
The New England Patriots traded the seven-time Pro Bowl receiver on Wednesday, giving Moss the exit he expected all along and sending him back to the place where he became a superstar.
"He is a tremendous competitor and was an integral member of the Vikings organization," Vikings coach Brad Childress said in a statement. "Once again, ownership was completely supportive of our efforts to add a valuable football player to our team. I know the entire organization is thrilled to welcome him back to the Twin Cities."
ESPN and Foxsports.com reported the Patriots will receive a third-round draft pick.
The Vikings play at the New York Jets on Monday night, and they are only three and a half weeks away from an Oct. 31 game in Foxborough, Mass., against the Patriots.
"In this business, there are complex and often difficult decisions, but it is my responsibility to make them based on what I feel is best for our football team, in both the short term and long term," Patriots coach Bill Belichick said in a statement. "I am grateful for the opportunity to have coached Randy Moss and aside from facing him as an opponent, I wish him the very best for the remainder of his Hall of Fame career."
Moss will go from catching passes from Tom Brady in New England to hauling in Brett Favre’s throws with the Vikings, who desperately needed a downfield threat after Pro Bowl receiver Sidney Rice had hip surgery in August.
The Vikings began the year with championship aspirations after reaching the NFC title game in January. But they have lost two of their first three and Favre’s passing game has struggled to get off the ground with Rice and Percy Harvin both struggling with injuries.
The Vikings failed to trade for disgruntled Chargers receiver Vincent Jackson earlier this season, and Favre has said he would like to see another big receiver added to the roster. The Vikings and owner Zygi Wilf delivered in a big way Wednesday.
Favre openly campaigned for the Packers to acquire Moss when Oakland put him on the trade block in 2007. The Patriots ultimately ended up parting with a fourth-round pick to pry Moss away, and Favre privately fumed at the swing and miss by the Green Bay front office.
The Packers shipped Favre to the Jets in 2008 and he signed with the Vikings in 2009.
Now, Favre and Moss have finally been united.
Moss was a first-round pick of the Vikings in 1998 and spent his first seven seasons in Minnesota, where he emerged as one of the most exciting playmakers in the league. He was traded to Oakland in 2005, where he languished for two years before being revitalized in New England.
Moss is in the final season of a three-year, $27 million contract and has said several times that he expected 2010 to be his last season with the Patriots. He did not have a catch in a 41-14 win over Miami on Monday night.
"When you have done so much and put so much work in, it kind of feels like I am not wanted," Moss said in September. "I am taking that in stride and playing my final year out and whatever the future holds is what it holds, but it is kind of a bad feeling — feeling not wanted."
Moss later backtracked from those statements, telling The Associated Press that he hoped to finish his career with the Patriots.
"For me to be 33 years old, it’s like I’m held at bay," he said. "If this is my last year here, I want to leave as good as I came in here in ’07. I know that’s really hard to duplicate, but I don’t want the fans, the organization, coaches or my teammates to have a sour taste in their mouths about Randy Moss."
His agent, Joel Segal, said the Vikings have not contacted him about a long-term deal, so Moss joins a long list of Vikings in the final year of their contracts. Among them are Rice, linebackers Ben Leber and Chad Greenway and defensive end Ray Edwards.
Childress and vice president Rick Spielman were not in Minnesota during Moss’s original seven years there, though there’s no doubt he’ll be welcomed with open arms.
He caught 574 passes for 9,142 yards and 90 touchdowns in his first stint with Minnesota, bursting onto the scene in 1998 by catching deep throws from Randall Cunningham and helping a record-breaking offense reach the NFC title game.
The entertaining style of football that he brought with him started a string of sellouts at the Metrodome that is still going 13 years later. His purple No. 84 jersey can still be seen regularly on the backs of fans, six years after he was traded Oakland.
But his time in Minnesota wasn’t always smooth.
There was the time he bumped a traffic cop with his car in downtown Minneapolis, left the field early from a game in Washington, and several other occasions where he was fined for antics on the field, prompting the Vikings to trade him to the Raiders in 2005.
He hasn’t had any of those types of problems in New England, but there were signs that his time with the Patriots was coming to an end. Monday night was the first time he has not caught a pass for the Patriots since joining them in 2007.
"Consistent with my dealings with Randy from the day we acquired him through our conversation this morning, it has been honest, thoughtful and with great mutual respect," Belichick said.