Deciphering Ownership, Moss A Complicated Process

The fact that the two most important Vikings stories in years are being speculated upon at the same time complicates each of them. Who will own the Vikings during their next public appearance at training camp, and who will be occupying the role of the team's top receiver?

Ownership and trading Randy Moss.

Sorting through the details of two very intriguing, important and involved stories can be difficult. The fact that they are continually in the news at the same time makes it that much harder to decipher the true direction of each.

At this point, only two things seem certain. Both stories aren't going away, and the ownership situation will almost have to be settled — or at least calmed — before trading Moss becomes a real option.

First, ownership.

A few weeks ago, Red McCombs hadn't even met with Arizona businessman Reggie Fowler. Now, McCombs is said to be in daily contact with him. And yet the NFL appears to favor Minnesota Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor for a few reasons: He is local. He appears to be more independently financially secure than Fowler is — and since any general partner has to own at 30 percent of an NFL team, that detail is a major factor. Taylor knows how to operate a sports franchise and has a good reputation. And, finally and maybe most importantly, Taylor is viewed as the best owner to secure a new stadium deal for the Vikings because he is a former state senator and still has congenial ties with current politicians.

McCombs has alienated several key politicians with his bravado in past dealings, and it seems unlikely that the Minnesota legislature will move swiftly to secure a deal for an "outsider" from Texas. On legislator said McCombs is playing games behind the scenes regarding a stadium. If Taylor were to purchase the team and a stadium deal could be struck in the next two years, that would be just about the perfect timeline with the Vikings' Metrodome lease running through 2011. With four years to build a new facility, the Vikings would return to a decent financial position relative to other NFL franchises.

A team stadium deal would increase the franchise value anywhere between 10 and 20 percent, according to several estimates.

The sticking point to any ownership transfer is always about money, and that is the case again. Several people question whether Fowler has the riches to secure at least 30 percent ownership of the Vikings without dipping into a loan that uses the team as collateral. That isn't permitted, according to the NFL.

The Taylor camp has two strikes against it, too. First, Taylor doesn't seem willing to meet McCombs' asking price and doesn't seem interested in getting into a bidding war (no matter how much McCombs would enjoy that). Secondly, according to one source, Taylor was led down the aisle twice before in his attempt to buy the Vikings, and having been left at the altar in the past is still a factor on his mind.

The whole ownership saga also plays into the Moss story. Some team officials are ready and willing to begin negotiating a trade, but with an unsettled ownership situation, the authority to sign off on a Moss trade still lies with McCombs. The league is three weeks away from the start of the free-agent signing period, which also is the start of the trading period. If a sale of the team still hasn't been agreed upon, then some feel that McCombs would rather keep Moss since he is a factor in selling out the Metrodome for every Vikings game since his drafting in 1998.

With free agency around the corner, there are sure to be a lot of signatures and phone calls emanating from Winter Park in the next two months. The question is, will any of those signatures be signing away the franchise or its most notorious figure? The answers are as muddy as ever.

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