Three days after the fact, Golden Tate is still being excoriated on social media for his decision to skip town and sign a five-year, $31 million contract with the Detroit Lions that includes $13.25 million in guaranteed money. Perhaps if Tate hadn’t gone on record in early February (KJR-AM interview) as saying he did not want to play in a “crappy” city for a “crap” team, the negative comments directed at him would not be so strident.
But Tate said what he said, then did the opposite, opening himself up to an avalanche of barbs. Numerous Seahawks zealots, who have no understanding of NFL business in general or the free-agency process in particular, have absurdly labeled Tate a “turncoat” and “traitor.”
We’ve been able to aggregate this much: Tate arrived in Detroit Wednesday morning with no specific intention of signing immediately with the Lions (the New York Jets and Jacksonville Jaguars, a franchise favored by ex-Seahawks, were also wooing him).
But Tate spent the first half of the day with Detroit’s coaching staff, which explained how he would factor into the Lions’ offense. Tate then got a rare, 20-minute meeting with club vice chairman Bill Ford Jr., who rarely mingles with free agents and reportedly poured on the charm.
Tate planned to catch an afternoon flight to Los Angeles, but a huge snowstorm cancelled it, stranding Tate in Detroit for the rest of the day. He apparently asked if he could take a nap, and the Lions sent him to a “sleeping room” in the club’s Allen Park facilities.
When Tate woke, he discovered that his agent was in the process of hammering out a five-year contract, and that the Lions were not going to let him out of the building until he signed it.
Tate learned — it must have been an eye opener — that the Lions were willing to pay more than $9 million of the $13.25 million guaranteed in the first year of the five-year contract – TWICE as much as Tate would have earned had he stayed with the Seahawks for an additional TWO years. Suddenly, with Seattle priced out of Tate’s market, “crappy” Detroit began to look more like Maui.
Tate, who has dropped just five of 149 catchable balls since 2011 (Pro Football Focus), then considered where and how he would fit into the Detroit offense. It didn’t take much brainpower.
He would have All-Pro Calvin Johnson (an average of 103 catches for 1,728 yards and nine TDs over the last two years) on one side of quarterback Matt Stafford, and he would be on the other, or occasionally stacked. With Johnson routinely double and triple teamed, Tate would get a lot of one-on-one coverage. Tate must have licked his chops.
In Pete Carroll’s successful run-oriented offense, featuring Marshawn Lynch, Tate would never catch more than 60-70 passes per season, regardless of his effectiveness and sure hands. But in Detroit, where the pass offense ranked third last year (vs. 26th for the Seahawks), he figures to catch 90-100 passes, and for who knows how many yards.
Tate might have loved winning under Carroll and dazzling the 12th Man, but he is foremost a wide receiver. This was about his future and his family’s future, not about an emotional parade six weeks ago.
At 26 and just entering his prime, Tate – barring injury – has another major contract awaiting him after the next five years are up. Big stats, which Detroit can provide, will only help.
“For what I want to achieve, and what I want to be a part of, I felt like this was the best place for me to go,” Tate said at his inaugural Detroit press conference. “This team throws the ball a whole bunch, which as a receiver, that’s very encouraging.
“I understand that a lot of teams are going to double and sometimes triple Calvin, which is going to leave me one-on-one on the back side, which as a receiver, what else do you want as a competitor?”
By mid-afternoon Wednesday, the Lions surely did not look like a “crap” team anymore to Golden Tate regardless of recent records. That was then, and for Tate, this is now.
The Lions were offering Tate a chance to double his guaranteed income and double his stats. Much as he enjoyed his experience with the Seahawks (his Twitter account is rife with statements of gratitude over his time in Seattle), who clearly saw his exit coming, Tate just couldn’t say no.
Can’t say that we blame him.