Moss Rumors Could Continue Through Combine

The Vikings officially deny that they are shopping wide receiver Randy Moss, but with representatives from all 32 teams at this week's NFL Combine in Indianapolis, the inquiries are sure to heat up. We review some of the rumored speculation, along with notes on the team's potential new owner in Reggie Fowler and info on Keith Millard and Steve Loney.

The Vikings categorically deny any and all rumors that say they are shopping receiver Randy Moss. Despite the denials, however, speculation continues to run rampant about Moss' future with the Vikings following an injury-riddled and controversy-filled 2004 season.

"We don't have any of our players on the trading block," coach Mike Tice said. "We are not shopping anyone on our roster. It's not going to happen. I don't see Randy Moss being anything but a Viking next season."

That doesn't mean the Vikings won't listen to offers, which are certain to come during the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis beginning later this week and leading up to the start of the March 2 trading period.

Last year, the Vikings made it known among league insiders that it would take a minimum of three first-round draft picks for the Vikings to listen to a trade offer for Moss. Even though Moss is a year older and missed essentially five games because of a partially torn hamstring in 2004, the beginning asking price this year would still be considerably steep.

It could take as many as two first-round picks and a defensive starter for the Vikings to even stop and listen as they walk through the halls of the RCA Dome during the scouting combine.

"We don't want to get rid of Randy, and Randy doesn't want to leave," Tice said. "So as far as all of the rumors, it's none of our concern."

The Vikings are being wise to take that approach. After all, even if they wanted to get rid of Moss, the last thing they want is to be put into a situation where they have to give Moss away for little value in return.

Like him or not, Moss is the centerpiece of one of the best offenses in the league. And he's content to stay in Minnesota. Neither he, nor his agent, Dante DiTrapano, is asking for a trade.

So far there are rumors persisting from a couple of cities.

OAKLAND RAIDERS

The first involves the Oakland Raiders. According to WCCO's radio's Dark Star, a person within the Vikings organization last month contacted Oakland owner Al Davis directly and asked him if he'd consider a trade involving Moss for players and draft picks. Davis said he'd absolutely consider that, according to Starr.

Davis has a reputation of going after physically gifted athletes, and Moss definitely fits that bill. The problem is that there just doesn't seem to be enough positive value on Oakland's defense to get in return.

The Raiders hold the No. 7 draft pick in the 2005 draft, and they have intriguing defensive players, although many of those are players who were once highly touted turned out to be busts in Oakland.

Cornerback Phillip Buchanon, the Raiders' initial first-round pick in 2002, is still under his rookie contract through 2006, with base salaries that would cost the Vikings only $1.5 million over the final two years of his deal. He was considered a top cornerback coming out of college, but he struggled in Oakland last year, both as a cover cornerback and a punt returner.

Cornerback Charles Woodson was one of the few bright spots for the Raiders last season, but he has been disgruntled with the organization the last couple of years despite recently being given the club's franchise tag. That means Woodson's salary would be about $3 million more than Moss' base salary in 2005, and franchising a player only puts him under contract for one season.

Middle linebacker Napolean Harris was another highly touted first-round college prospect in 2002. He is signed through 2008 and his nearly $3 million in salary over the next four years wouldn't be hard for the Vikings to swallow. But they hardly need another prospect at middle linebacker who reportedly "weakened as the year went on," according to Silver and Black Illustrated.

The Raiders' interior defensive linemen, Ted Washington and Warren Sapp, are past their prime and would probably cost more than the Vikings would be willing to pay.

So there doesn't seem to be an obvious fit between the Vikings and Raiders.

NEW YORK JETS

The New York Jets may be another team in search of a tall, physically gifted receiver like Moss, and they have a few defensive prospects worth looking at, such as middle linebacker Sam Cowart, nose tackle Jason Ferguson and nickel back Ray Mickens. But each of those players could end up on the free-agent market on March 2 anyway.

Cowart, a player familiar with Minnesota defensive coordinator Ted Cottrell's scheme, hurt his knee early in the 2004 campaign and was replaced by rookie Jonathan Vilma. Cowart could have a few good years of football left in him, but with Vilma firmly established as the starter, Cowart could be on the salary-cap chopping block in New York.

Ferguson is due for unrestricted free agency this year, and the Jets' top offseason priority was to franchise defensive end John Abraham, which they did last week.

Finally, Ray Mickens was one of the better nickel backs heading into the 2004, but a torn anterior cruciate ligament in training camp ended his season and he could be another cap casualty.

Financially, there are few deals that would seem to make sense between the Vikings and Raiders or Jets. Those two teams don't have much to offer in Minnesota's stated positions of need — cornerback, linebacker or defensive tackle — with players that might not already reach the free-agent market.

But when the rumors start to circulate concerning Moss, it's difficult not to at least look into the possibilities.



OTHER RUMORED SUITORS

  • From the start, the Baltimore Ravens have been listed as a frontrunner in the media speculation on a potential Moss trade. However, since doing several radio interviews in the Baltimore market, Viking Update's feeling is that Moss is heavily undervalued in what the Ravens might be willing to give back in return. Baltimore media types maintain that linebacker Ray Lewis and safety Ed Reed would be untouchable in trade talks. But an average defensive player and one first-round pick don't seem like equal value in return for the NFL's biggest threat at wide receiver.

  • Despite speculation about the Atlanta Falcons being interested in Moss via trade, there is absolutely no sign of that being considered by team officials, according to a reporter covering the Atlanta Falcons.

  • The Dallas Cowboys, Washington Redskins, San Diego Chargers and Arizona Cardinals have been other rumored franchises with interest in Moss. Redskins head coach Joe Gibbs said he has no interest in Moss, and solid scenarios from the other franchises haven't emerged.

    HOT UNDER THE LIGHTS

    Reggie Fowler, the Arizona businessman who has a $625 million agreement to purchase the Vikings from Red McCombs, was asked at his introductory press conference to reveal something about himself. Fowler, a shy and private man, thought for a second and said, "I'm 6-foot-1 and tons of fun."

    Fowler and McCombs were sweating pretty heavily during their joint press conference. Fowler was answering a question when McCombs grabbed a nearby towel and dabbed Fowler's clean-shaven skull. Later, as McCombs was answering a question, Fowler took the towel and dabbed McCombs' forehead. The exchanges drew laughter from the assembly of reporters and officials from both ownership groups.

    Fowler, in position to become the first African-American to own an NFL team, spent 2 1/2 weeks in training camp with the Bengals in 1982. He was signed as a college free-agent linebacker from Wyoming but was waived a week before the preseason opener.



    MILLARD'S NEW DIGS

    If history is any indication, the Raiders' difficulties rushing the passer may be a thing of the past.

    Their most recent hire was that of Keith Millard as assistant defensive line coach. Millard joins the club after four years with the Denver Broncos. Under his tutelage the Broncos were fourth and sixth in the NFL in sacks the last two years.

    As a player, Millard still holds the NFL record for sacks by an interior linemen, having collected 18 in 1989 when he was NFL Defensive Player of the Year playing for the Minnesota Vikings.

    He also happens to be a product of Foothill High in Pleasanton, which is near Oakland.

    "It's an organization that I've followed since I was a kid," Millard said. "My first pro football game was (attending) a Raider game."



    BURNING CANDLE AT BOTH JOBS

    New Vikings offensive coordinator Steve Loney is keeping "in-season" hours as he adjusts to his new role as the replacement for Scott Linehan, who left for Miami after the season. "I'm going pretty good right now," said Loney, who will retain his duties as offensive line coach. "But I know I need to back off soon. Otherwise, I'll be too tired once the season arrives."



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