49ers Roll Dice, Gamble on Moss

San Francisco signs wide receiver after a workout with coach Jim Harbaugh; will team get the good Randy Moss or the bad Randy Moss?

By Doug Williams
|  Tuesday, Mar 13, 2012  |  Updated 8:13 AM PDT
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49ers Roll Dice, Gamble on Moss

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Randy Moss has a one-year deal now with the San Francisco 49ers. The 49ers' schedule is tougher this year, and Moss, historically, hasn't dealt well with not winning.

After watching Randy Moss’ workout with the San Francisco 49ers Monday, running back Anthony Dixon tweeted:

“Randy Moss done linked up with us. Oh it’s about to get scary like the end of October!”

But is that scary good or scary bad?

Surely, Dixon believes it will be scary for the rest of the NFL to deal with a 49ers offense that now will have a solid running game, a good offensive line, a rejuvenated quarterback in Alex Smith, a go-to tight end in Vernon Davis and now Moss at wide receiver to stretch the field.

In need of a tall, deep-threat wideout to give its passing attack more zip, the 49ers Monday signed Moss, 35, to a one-year deal. After not playing in the NFL last season, Moss told reporters Monday, “I’m not a free agent. I’m a guy straight off the couch, straight off the street. One thing I want the sports world to understand is the love and passion I have for football.”

There’s no question that when Moss has been motivated and in shape, he’s perhaps the best wide receiver of his era, and one of the best of all time. And after running routes and catching passes from head coach Jim Harbaugh Monday, Harbaugh and other members of the 49ers braintrust must have seen enough good things from Moss to believe he can make a difference.

“It was obvious they liked what they saw,” Moss told reporters. “I don’t want to let them down.”

In other words, Moss is saying all the right things and looking good – what he often has done in his NFL career. The Good Randy has been worth his weight in gold. In his stint with the Patriots, he caught 50 touchdown passes in 52 regular-season games, notes Jason Cole of Yahoo Sports, and he has 954 receptions in 202 regular-season games with 153 TD catches. The guy is a difference-maker. Moss has 10 1,000-yard receiving seasons, second only to Hall of Famer Jerry Rice’s 14.

But in a career with Minnesota (twice), Oakland, New England and Tennessee, Moss has been accused of quitting and has created off- and on-the-field distractions.

Now playing for a Harbaugh team that was successful last season in getting every player on the roster to buy into a team-first mentality, Moss doesn’t appear to be the model personality to fit that mold.

While some writers and columnists have quickly weighed in to say it’s a good, low-cost gamble by the 49ers to pick up a less-expensive receiver as the free-agent market for pass catchers has shrunk, others believe the 49ers might  be taking too much of a risk.

Mike Freeman, who writes about the NFL for CBS Sports, sees the “scary bad” in the Moss signing, saying “Good luck, 49ers. You’re going to need it.”

Wrote Freeman: “The 49ers just signed a timebomb. Now the clock is ticking on when the bomb goes off.”

Freeman says he doesn’t believe Moss is a new man with a new attitude. He has too much history.

“Moss has been poison and now another team thinks it can turn Moss around,” wrote Freeman. “Just like the rest of them.

“This is the Moss two-step. He flashes both a smile and a great stride and some naïve coach unversed in Moss history believes he is the guy who will make it work this time. The Raiders thought that. The Patriots thought that. The Vikings thought that (the second time around). The Titants thought that. Now the 49ers do. … I’m not buying it.”

On Monday, Moss indeed was saying the right things, that he loves Harbaugh’s enthusiasm and that he’s ready “to bring the fans out of their seats.”

So, will it be the productive Moss of his early Vikings years and rebound stint with New England, or the Moss who disappeared while playing two seasons for the Raiders and created problems when he returned to Minnesota?

Not knowing is the scary part, so Dixon is right. We’ll all find out how this works about the time Halloween comes along.

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