Now do you see what Belichick was up to?

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Now do you see what Belichick was up to?

By Michael Felger

Four weeks ago, Bill Belichick made a football decision that 99 percent of Patriots Nation failed to understand.

To say that the overwhelming majority of Pats fans and media disagreed with the decision to trade Randy Moss is an understatement on the order of saying ESPN enjoys covering Brett Favre. You all hated it.

Maybe now you're closer to understanding what Belichick was up to.

Or maybe you still don't get it.

Either way, here are the facts (not opinions):

Since the trade, the Patriots are 3-0 and are averaging 24.7 points per game on offense.

The Vikings are 1-3 and are averaging 21.5 points per game.

How is that possible, you ask? The Vikings have Adrian Peterson, Percy Harvin, Visanthe Shiancoe, a massive offensive line and Favre. To say they have more talent than the Patriots (they of BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Danny Woodhead and Brandon Tate) is an understatement on the order of saying Favre isn't shy about discussing his injuries. It's not even close.

Yet that collection of Minnesota players went up against the leaky Patriots defense on Sunday and only came away with 18 points. That doesn't make any sense to you, does it?

Forget Moss' statistical output (one catch, eight yards). We all know his true value is his ability to take the top off a defense -- and he categorically did that on Sunday. I mean, safety Brandon Meriweather was lined up so far off Moss' side of the ball on most snaps that he might as well have been in Providence. And yet the Vikings reached the end zone just twice and lost going away.

To repeat:

Moss did his job (he stretched the defense). Favre actually played well. Harvin was a beast. Peterson was productive. The Vikings out-gained the Pats (410-362). They had more first downs (23-18) and a decided time-of-possession advantage (35:08 to 24:52).

And yet the Patriots won by double digits and are now undefeated since trading away the player most everyone said was indispensable.

Again, how is that possible?

Here's my opinion (not fact):

Moss' value isn't what you've been led to believe it is.

More importantly, winning at a high level in the NFL isn't about collecting individual talent. It's about building a team. Somewhere in the middle of the Moss era you all forgot that. Thankfully, Belichick remembered just in the nick of time.

Sure, Moss runs off safeties. Sure, he comes up with some jaw-dropping catches. But if that skill set can only get you 18 points against an unproven defense in a game you need to win to basically save your season . . . then maybe that skill set isn't as important as you think it is.

And in the meantime Moss' mere presence simply corrodes your foundation. It's hard to describe, but if you want to have a tough, clutch, resilient football team, then you're best not having Moss on it. He's just not tough, clutch or resilient. He doesn't play that way and he doesn't approach his job that way. And too many young players look up to him. Whether he's a captain (as he was in New England) or not, he's always going to be a prominent presence in any locker room he's in. And if things aren't going well (as is often the case in the NFL), he's not going to pull your team in the right direction.

Did you hear what Moss did to the Vikings after the game? His podium performance was entertaining as hell but reprehensible just the same, as he tacitly ripped his team and his coach while blowing a giant wet kiss in the direction of Belichick and the Patriots. How would you like to be a Vikings fan today hearing that? Or coach Brad Childress, who just a month ago "rescued" Moss from the Patriots? Or owner Zygi Wilf, who is paying Moss' (prorated) 6.4 million salary? Or anyone else wearing a Vikings uniform?

Again, we loved Moss' speech here in New England for obvious reasons. But it really showed who he is as a person.

When the going gets tough, Moss simply gets going. On Sunday he officially became the first Minnesota player to bail off the Vikings' sinking ship. And there are still nine games to go. Good luck the rest of the way, Brad.

That's what happens when you bring in Randy Moss. You sell your soul in exchange for a safety lined up 10 yards deeper than normal.

Thankfully, the Patriots made the right choice: A tighter safety in exchange for a stronger team.

Don't you understand yet?

Felger's report card posts Tuesday morning. E-mail him HERE and read the mailbag on Thursday. Listen to Felger on the radio weekdays, 2-6 p.m., on 98.5 the Sports Hub.

How does Derek Carr's new deal impact Jimmy Garoppolo?

How does Derek Carr's new deal impact Jimmy Garoppolo?

Ever since Derek Carr signed a five-year, $125 million extension with the Raiders to give him the highest average annual contract value in league history, some version of the same question has been posed over and over again. 

What does this mean for other quarterbacks looking for new deals? 

Despite the fact that Carr's average annual value surpasses the previous high set by Andrew Luck ($24.6 million), and despite the fact that Carr's contract provides him the security that alluded him while he was on his rookie contract, his recent haul may not mean much for the likes of Matthew Stafford, Kirk Cousins and other top-end quarterbacks.

They were already expecting monster paydays down the road that would hit (or eclipse) the $25 million range, and Carr's record-setting contract may not even serve as a suitable baseline for them, as ESPN's Dan Graziano lays out.

So if Carr's contract did little more for upper-echelon quarterbacks than confirm for them where the market was already headed, then does it mean anything for someone like Jimmy Garoppolo? 

Carr and Garoppolo were both second-round picks in 2014, but from that point, they've obviously taken very different roads as pros. Carr started 47 consecutive games in his first three years and by last season he had established himself as one of the most valuable players in the league. Garoppolo, by comparison, has started two games. 

Both players still hold loads of promise, but unless Garoppolo sees substantial playing time in 2017 and then hits the open market, he won't approach Carr's deal when his rookie contract is up.  

ESPN's Mike Reiss projected that a fair deal for Garoppolo on the open market might fall between the $19 million that was guaranteed to Chicago's Mike Glennon and Carr's contract, which includes $40 million fully guaranteed and $70 million in total guarantees, per NFL Media.

Perhaps something in the range of what Brock Osweiler received from the Texans after Osweiler started seven games for the Broncos in 2015 would be considered fair: four years, with $37 million guaranteed. Because Osweiler (before his deal or since) never seemed as polished as Garoppolo was in his two games as a starter in 2016, and because the salary cap continues to soar, the argument could be made that Garoppolo deserves something even richer. 

Though Garoppolo is scheduled to hit unrestricted free agency following the 2017 season, there is a chance he doesn't get there quite that quickly. The Patriots could try to come to some kind of agreement with their backup quarterback on an extension that would keep him in New England, or they could place the franchise tag on him following the season. 

Either way, Garoppolo will get paid. But until he sees more time on the field, a deal that would pay him in the same range as his draft classmate will probably be out of reach.

Patriots release camp dates; open practices begin July 27

Patriots release camp dates; open practices begin July 27

Football is coming.

The Patriots announced on Thursday that veterans will report to training camp on Wednesday, July 26 and that the first public practice will take place the following day.

Each of the team's first four practices -- from July 27-30 -- are scheduled to take place on the practice fields behind Gillette Stadium "in the nine o'clock hour," according to the Patriots. Updates to the training camp schedule, including more specific start times for practices, can be found at patriots.com/trainingcamp.

The Patriots Hall of Fame will hold its induction ceremony for former corner Raymond Clayborn on Saturday, July 29 around midday following that morning's training camp practice. Held on the plaza outside the Hall at Patriot Place, the ceremony will be free and open to the public.

The Patriots will host the Jaguars for two days of joint practices open to the public on Monday, Aug. 7 and Tuesday, Aug. 8. The preseason opener for both clubs will take place at Gillette Stadium on Aug. 10.