Randy Moss, Chad Ochocinco or Terrell Owens? That is the question of the hour around the NFL ... OK, it's just the question around here. Actually, it's not even a question, per se, it's more of a rumor. Just go with it for a bit, alright?
Moss, Ochocinco and Owens were once at the top of the league. They were the premier wide receivers in the league. Time has taken its toll, though, and now two are on the brink of retirement (one is still kind of retired) and the other is coming off by far the worst season in his long NFL career. And yes, two have ties to our beloved New England Patriots.
Moss and Ocho are already immersed in the legendary Patriot way. One is still in it (for now, at least), the other is not. Owens, meanwhile, has not had any experience with Bill Belichick, Tom Brady or anything else related to the Patriots.
Before we proceed, let's make this point clear. While these three are great in their own rights, none are anywhere near elite anymore. There are receiving better options to pursue (Brandon Lloyd comes to mind), but for argument's sake, we will just compared these three -- Moss, Ochocinco, Owens -- regarding which would be a better fit with the Pats now.
An argument can be made for each, but only one stands out as a clear choice. Let's begin.
Owens may have had the best career out of these three options. He's a future Hall of Famer, a six-time Pro Bowler and a five-time First Team All-Pro. Owens has 15,934 receiving yards and is tied for second all-time with 153 touchdown catches. His most prolific season came in 2001 with the San Francisco 49ers, when he had 1,412 receiving yards and a career-high 16 touchdown catches. Without a doubt, Owens was a first-rate wide receiver. Key word being: was.
The last time Owens had a productive season was in 2010 with the Cincinnati Bengals, when he had 983 receiving yards and nine touchdowns on 72 receptions. Owens missed all of this season with an ACL injury, but the veteran wideout attempted to seek work during the middle of this season. Alas, no one wanted him. That in itself doesn't mean Owens doesn't have anything left to offer. Given a full offseason to keep training, T.O. may have something left. Maybe, maybe not.
Here's where things get interesting. Moss knows his way around the Patriots' system - he played there from 2007 through 2009, and he was dominant. Moss is practically on-par with Owens -- he has 14,858 career receiving yards and 153 touchdown catches to go along with six Pro Bowl selections and the 1998 AP Offensive Rookie Of The Year award.
Both T.O. and Moss have had their character problems (T.O. probably a little more so), but Moss has a hand up over Owens for one main reason: he's been here before. True, the Moss experiment ended in disaster. For Moss, that is. Bill Belichick had no problem shipping Moss away, and it's clear that it was the worst move for Moss, and he knows that. Still, it seems that Moss has learned his lesson and would be willing to come back and play whatever role is needed.
Of the three, it would appear that Ochocinco would be the least attractive option. In his one and only season with the Pats, Ocho had 15 catches for 276 yards and one touchdown. In Super Bowl XLVI, Ocho had one catch. Those numbers won't exactly blow anyone away. They are far from what Ochocinco has done in his storied career. In 166 games, Ocho has 11,059 receiving yards and 67 touchdown catches on 766 receptions and is a six-time Pro Bowler.
Why didn't it workout? There is plenty of speculation on that topic. Ochocinco didn't know the playbook, or he was too concerned with his entertaining but unproductive Twitter account. Or maybe he didn't even care? Plenty of rumors on that topic, so take your pick. Bottom line was that Ochocinco was not productive in his first (and maybe only) season with the Patriots.
THE VERDICT: Believe it or not, Ochocinco is your best option. Don't get me wrong, Moss and Owens are (or at least, were) fine receivers that could still help the Patriots, even in their older age. However, if you had to have your pick, Ocho is your man. Why? He is the most familiar with the team in its current state. Take the lack of playbook knowledge rumors for what it's worth, but either way, he knows more of the Pats' current offensive scheme than Moss does. Sure, Moss was with the Patriots for a while, but the playbook has changed a lot with the additions of Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez. And Ochocinco certainly knows a lot more about the Patriot way than Owens does. Also, Ochocinco has age working on his side -- he was 33 this season. Moss is 35 and Owens is 38. That can only help his cause, right?
In an ideal situation, the Patriots wouldn't have to add any of these guys. Hopefully, they will bring in a quality wideout either through free agency or the draft. But if not, and if they focus on defense only (which wouldn't be surprising and would be justified), then these three guys are cheap options. Low risk, high reward. Ochocino, though, may have a little bit of a higher reward.