The Vikings felt they had little choice but to accommodate Stefon Diggs’ request for a trade this month when they sent the disgruntled wide receiver to Buffalo for four draft picks, including the Bills’ first-rounder and two others in this year’s draft.
It wasn’t the first time the Vikings have traded a high-profile player either because he wanted out or because there was an overwhelming feeling that it was time for a divorce. This doesn’t mean that all of these moves turned out to be bad ones but it does mean a pretty good player (or even an outstanding one) was lost.
Today, we debut a series of five high-profile players the Vikings traded (not guys who left as free agents, were released or near the end) and how those deals worked out. I put this question on Twitter on Saturday night and appreciate all the responses. The first trade we will look at it involves a wide receiver who had a bit of an impact upon his arrival in the late 1990s.
Time with Vikings: Character concerns caused the uber-talented wide receiver from Marshall to fall to the 21st pick in the 1998 draft, but Vikings coach Dennis Green wasn’t going to make the mistake of passing on him. Moss burst on the scene as a rookie, catching an NFL-leading 17 touchdown passes and averaging a career-high 19 yards per reception, and established himself as one of the NFL’s best during seven seasons in Minnesota. Remember, the Randy Ratio that Mike Tice attempted to install after he replaced Green as coach? The goal was to throw 40 percent of the team’s passes to Moss but it was abandoned midway through a 6-10 finish in 2002.
What ended Moss’ time in Minnesota? There are some who think Vikings owner Red McCombs traded Moss because he didn’t know when he was going to sell the team and didn’t want to pay Moss. McCombs unloaded the team shortly after the trade, first selling it to Reggie Fowler and then having Zygi Wilf step in as the main investor.
McCombs said in a 2008 interview that the reason he traded Moss was because Moss had “kind of lost his place with our other leaders on the team,” and thus needed to be moved. Moss said in 2017 that it was because he only cared about the game of football and nothing else. None of these explanations, other than the financial one, makes much sense. It also was no secret that the Vikings had lost the ability to manage Moss — remember him walking off the field early in Washington or bumping a traffic control agent with his car? — and that undoubtedly played a role.
The trade: The Vikings sent Moss to the Oakland Raiders on March 3, 2005 for a first- (seventh overall) and seventh-round pick (219th overall) in the 2005 draft and linebacker Napoleon Harris. The Vikings used the first-round pick on wide receiver Troy Williamson and the seventh-rounder on defensive back Adrian Ward.
How it worked out for the Vikings: The Vikings thought they were getting Moss’ replacement in Williamson, a speedy receiver from South Carolina. But Williamson’s inability to hang onto the football and overall lack of production caused him to have a short stint in Minnesota (2005-07). He caught 79 passes for 1,067 yards and three touchdowns in 39 games. Ward was placed on waivers at the end of his first training camp in Minnesota. Harris, easily the best player Minnesota got in the deal, played in 29 games for the Vikings over two seasons, making 17 starts, and returned for 10 games in 2008 after a year in Kansas City.
How it worked out for Moss: After a couple nondescript years in Oakland, Moss was traded to New England for a fourth-round pick in 2007 and caught an NFL-record 23 touchdown passes that season from Tom Brady. Moss eventually made his way back to Minnesota in 2010 for a brief stint but he wasn’t the same player and was cut after less than a month. (By the way, Oakland took defensive back John Bowie with the fourth-round pick they got from the Patriots for Moss. He played in five career games and registered no statistics.)
The verdict: There was no upside to this trade for the Vikings. While Oakland didn’t get much out of Moss, he remained a fantastic talent in his late 20s and his success with the Patriots proved what he could do when paired with an elite quarterback. Of course, with Daunte Culpepper blowing out his knee in 2005 and the Vikings being unable to find a permanent replacement for him in the years after, there are no guarantees that Moss’ production or happiness in Minnesota would have been any different than it was in Oakland. We found out quickly that Moss and Brad Childress, the Vikings coach for Moss’ second go-around in purple, were quick to clash. What makes this trade so hard to take from the Vikings perspective is how big of a bust Williamson turned out to be.
Next up: Fran Tarkenton to the Giants