One Year Later

Almost a year after the second-biggest trade in Vikings franchise history, we pose a question -- was there a winner or a loser?

From the time Randy Moss walked off the field early against the Redskins in the regular-season finale of the 2004 season, the rumors started swirling that he might be throwing a moon somewhere else in 2005. But it still came as a shock to many Vikings fans when the word came down that he had been shipped off to the Raiders.

With a year behind us since the trade, we ask the question: Who won the trade? From the Vikings' side of things, the primary drawback to the deal was that, while Moss could be a distraction at times and something of a whiner if he wasn't intimately involved in the game plan, he was truly a game-changer. The defenses that Daunte Culpepper saw last year were looks he had never seen before because, regardless of how they chose to do it, teams altered their defenses when it came to covering Moss. Culpepper was out to prove that he could be successful without Moss and that too much credit for his own success had been attributed to having a stud receiver like Moss at his disposal. If that is the criterion you use, the trade was a failure. The Vikings went overboard to give Culpepper additional weapons (Troy Williamson, Travis Taylor and Koren Robinson were a three-for-one replacement), but Culpepper still had the worst year of his career without Moss.

One of the biggest problems VU had with the trade was the compensation. If the Raiders could get two first-round picks for coach Jon Gruden, one would think that Moss would be worth more than a first- and seventh-round pick. From that perspective, the trade could also be viewed as a bust. Few if any teams had Troy Williamson rated as high as the Vikings and, by taking him with the pick the Vikes received from the Raiders for Moss, they may as well have forced him to wear No. 84 in case anyone forgot.

But the trade talk shouldn't stop there. In reality the Vikings got three players for Moss -- Williamson, Napoleon Harris and Sam Cowart (the Vikings traded their own seventh round pick to the Jets when they got the second pick in that round from the Raiders to get Cowart). Of those three, only Cowart was a consistent producer. Napoleon was far from dynamite and, while Williamson showed some flashes of greatness, the team was shockingly slow in incorporating him into the game plan. From that perspective, the trade had to be viewed as a failure ... at least in terms of the 2005 season.

On the flip side, Moss' contract was getting close to being unbearable for the Vikings. There was a sentiment within the team that, while there was no denying Moss' ability to score from anywhere on the field made him as intimidating as any wideout in the game, he was showing signs of breaking down. Prior to 2004, Moss had played through injuries. That changed in 2004 when he missed a month and a half with ankle and hamstring injuries and missed considerable time last year for the Raiders. Combine his part-time production with a base salary that will be $9 million in 2006 and more than $10 million the next two years. For the problems that would create with the salary cap, if the Vikings were going to move Moss, it had to be following the 2004 season. Why? Unless his new team would be willing to restructure his contract, he was going to take away a lot of valuable cap space if he had stayed with the Vikings. From that perspective, the trade made sense and got value.

In the end, it may be too early to determine whether the Vikings got the better end of the trade or not. Neither team seemed to improve itself too much with the deal and, until somebody does, we may have to call the trade a draw -- since neither team has appeared to get better or markedly worse as a result.

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