When it comes to Minnesota Vikings history, you can’t have a conversation without mentioning Randy Moss. The 21st-overall pick in the 1998 NFL Draft took the league by storm and became one of the most exciting players to ever put on a Vikings uniform.
With 77 touchdowns in his first six seasons in Minnesota, Moss became a football god and was inducted into the Vikings’ Ring of Honor in 2017. But things could have gone much differently if he had been traded to the Green Bay Packers in 2006.
To understand this story, let’s go back to Moss’ departure from the Vikings. After a rough season in 2004, Vikings owner Red McCombs was looking to shed payroll before selling the team to the Wilf family. As a result, Moss was traded to the Oakland Raiders in March 2005.
Vikings fans watched from afar as Moss sulked through two seasons with the Raiders and was thrown on the trading block in the spring of 2007. The New England Patriots swooped in and acquired him for a fourth-round pick, but they weren’t the only team interested at the time.
According to a 2017 report from ESPN’s Bill Barnwell, a deal was on the table that would have sent Moss to Green Bay in exchange for Aaron Rodgers. The Packers denied the deal was ever discussed, but it could have created a ripple effect for the Vikings, Packers, and Raiders.
The Packers were coming off a pair of disappointing seasons as they finished 4-12 in 2005 and 8-8 in 2006. With Favre entering the final years of his career, the Packers had Rodgers waiting in the wings. However, it wasn’t a given that he would become the superstar he is today. So a Rodgers-for-Moss trade made sense, especially when you look at Green Bay’s receiving core at the time.
The Packers entered the 2007 season with 31-year-old Donald Driver and 23-year-old Greg Jennings as their top targets. In a situation reminiscent of Green Bay’s current receiving core, adding Moss would have given Favre another top target and the opportunity to go on another Super Bowl run.
Little did the Packers know that they would have the opportunity to do so without Moss. Rookie James Jones emerged as Green Bay’s third wide receiver, and the Packers posted a 13-3 record and went to the NFC Championship, where they lost to the New York Giants.
While the Packers had a good season, Moss could have put them over the top. Moss showed he had plenty left in the tank, scoring an NFL-record 23 touchdowns when paired with Tom Brady. With Favre’s stronger arm, it’s not impossible to think that Moss could have had a similar impact with the Packers and helped lead them to the Super Bowl.
The Patriots were good enough to win the AFC even without Moss. Even though they wouldn’t have entered the Super Bowl at 18-0, it could have set up a juicy matchup with the Packers in Glendale.
If Moss goes off in that game, Favre wins his second Super Bowl and could ride off into the sunset. This is where things get interesting.
If Favre retires, the Packers would have Moss but would also be scrambling to find a quarterback. The aggressive approach could have seen a trade-up for Matt Ryan or Joe Flacco in the 2008 NFL Draft. Instead, the Packers wound up taking Brian Brohm with the 56th-overall pick as an insurance policy for Rodgers. If they had traded Rodgers to the Vikings, Brohm could have been the starter for the Packers, and a complete disaster ensues as Moss probably forces his way out of Green Bay.
Favre’s retirement would have had more long-term ramifications. He never would have been traded to the New York Jets. The pick the Packers received in that trade was part of a package that helped Green Bay trade up for Clay Matthews, leaving Green Bay without one of its key defensive leaders throughout the 2010s.
The upside? The Packers still have their fourth Super Bowl.
All of this could open things up for the Vikings to take over this decade, but not after a couple years of pain. The Vikings had one of the best defenses in the league in the late-2000s, but having to face Moss twice a year would make things more difficult. If Moss victimized the Vikings like he was capable of, he likely becomes a villain and might not find his way into the Ring of Honor.
Favre’s retirement would also have an effect on the Vikings: They never would have acquired him in the 2009 season. Left with Tarvaris Jackson under center, the Vikings could have had to turn to the draft and trade up for Mark Sanchez or Josh Freeman, or hit the free-agent market to sign Kurt Warner or Matt Cassel. In other words, the Vikings aren’t making the NFC Championship.
In this bizarre universe, Matthew Stafford and the Detroit Lions would battle with Jay Cutler and the Chicago Bears for control of the NFC North while the Vikings and Packers try to pick up the pieces from their late-2000s rebuild.
This also presents an interesting scenario for Rodgers. When he took over in Green Bay, he inherited an offense that had all the tools he needed to succeed. If he goes to Oakland, that wouldn’t be the case.
The Raiders were a mess at every level in the late 2000s with Tom Cable, Hue Jackson, and Dennis Allen as head coaches. With Al Davis’ fetish for drafting fast wide receivers, Rodgers would have to establish a connection with Darrius Heyward-Bey as his top target, and the Raiders would probably continue to be the Raiders.
In a best-case scenario, Rodgers becomes Ryan Tannehill. He doesn’t show much with the Raiders and then hits free agency, where he latches on with a functional franchise, takes over the starting job, and shows flashes of being a competent quarterback. It’s unlikely he becomes the future Hall of Famer we see now, but he’s ultimately successful.
Looking back, all franchises involved should be thankful this trade never happened. Moss is still a legend with the Vikings, and Rodgers helped lead the Packers to the Super Bowl in 2010. The Patriots rejuvenated Moss’ career and Vikings fans got to enjoy one magical season with Favre. But it’s fun to see how things could have turned out with one simple trade.