Of all the players who have moved on from the Seahawks championship team to other NFL outposts, WR Golden Tate was the most costly departure. Combining Tate with Doug Baldwin from 2014 to 2018 would have been a tandem to put wrinkles in the brows of defensive coordinators and a smile on the face of QB Russell Wilson.
In the New England Super Bowl, Wilson maybe throws to Tate instead of Ricardo Lockette.
The decision to not give a second contract to Tate, who signed in free agency with Detroit, where the Seahawks play Sunday (10 a.m., FOX), perhaps one day will be usurped in futility by Richard Sherman, should he be healthy enough to star in San Francisco. Whatever the ranking, the cost of Tate’s loss was amplified by the reason for it: The trade for WR Percy Harvin.
To use football parlance, a double move, of badness.
The post-championship arrival of the mercurial Harvin, who recently admitted to a long-term anxiety disorder that basically got him thrown off the Seahawks in October 2015, was the catalyst for the decision let Tate go into free agency after 2014.
They decided they wouldn’t pay big money to both at the same position.
To borrow from the knight in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, they chose poorly.
In Seattle from 2010-13, Tate caught 165 passes for a 13.3-yard average and 15 touchdowns, rushed 13 times for 69 yards and returned 68 punts for 787 yards. He missed four games.
In Detroit from 2014 to 2018, he has caught 409 passes for an 11.5-yard average and 22 touchdowns, rushed 28 times for 136 yards and returned 24 punts for 187 yards. He missed no games.
In other words, a startling consistency.
Harvin, meanwhile, was dispatched by Seattle, for whom he played six regular-season games, to the New York Jets, where he played seven games. Then he played eight games with Buffalo before retiring at 28.
To get Harvin, the Seahawks gave Minnesota a 2013 first-round pick, a 2013 seventh-round pick and a 2014 third-round pick, and gave Harvin a six-year, $67 million contract that included a $12 million bonus at signing.
Tate, meanwhile, received a five-year, $31 million free-agent contract from Detroit. In the deal’s final season at age 30, Tate is getting $9.3 million, fourth-highest on the Lions roster. But given his levels of consistency, versatility and productivity, it’s a steal.
In a season in which rookie RB Kerryon Johnson has given the Lions a real rushing game (6.4 ypc, second in the NFL), Tate is leading the 3-3 Lions with 37 receptions, 465 yards (12.6 ypc) and three touchdowns. He’s 12th in the NFL in yards after catch (232).
Tate is also 12th among active NFL receivers in career receptions (574), Baldwin 25th (455). Tate was also perhaps the best downfield blocker Carroll’s Seahawks have had. Together, Tate and Baldwin would have saved the need for the Seahawks to use a second-round pick on Paul Richardson (gone in free agency) and a third-rounder on Amara Darboh (injured reserve).
If you care to place a pin on the Seahawks’ timeline of where things began to get sideways, Harvin over Tate is where it goes.
Yes, hindsight is 20/20. Then again, it’s all we have.
At least Carroll didn’t sound bitter about it. Regrets, Pete?
“I don’t mind saying that,” he said at his weekly Wednesday presser. “I think Golden is a great player. I loved the way he played as a young guy coming in. He always had a knack. He was such a naturally competitive, kind of athletically artistic type of guy. He could make you miss and break tackles and do things that a lot of guys didn’t do.
“He was always fun to have on the club.”
In Seattle’s offense, Tate would not have the same targets and receptions as he has had in Detroit. So even if Seattle had matched the Lions’ offer, he may have rejected it. But if Harvin had not been acquired, Tate not only would have avoided a pre-Super Bowl fistfight with the guy, he may have earned a bigger role.
The what-ifs won’t change anything about Sunday, when, one game after seeing Marshawn Lynch in London, they meet another lord of the Super Bowl ring.
LB Bobby Wagner sounds as if he will offer a polite hello before hoping to meet Tate on a crossing route.
“You definitely stay in touch,” he said. “You always want to see a guy do well. When I see the Lions come on (TV), I root for Golden. But when he plays us, I hope he gets no catches, no yards and he gets hit a bunch of times.
“I could care less what he does. As long as he’s healthy, it’s all good. It’s kind of like going up against your brother – whether it’s a little brother, big brother, you aren’t going to let him win. I’m not going to give you that satisfaction.”
Because of the salary cap, every NFL team has to make hard choices regarding top talents in their primes. But in the Seahawks case, the over-reach for the spectacular but troubled Harvin exceeded the appreciation of the grasp they had with Tate.
It’s taking years to get over it.