The One That Got Away, Golden Tate
Golden Tate, drafted by the Seahawks in the second round (60th overall) out of Notre Dame in 2010 was set to be a franchise wide receiver for the team. His career, like almost all wide receivers, started off slow. There is so much a receiver has to learn coming into the NFL from the college level, the playbook is typically thicker and plays themselves more complex. In simple terms, a wide receiver coming from college to the NFL is akin to an English-speaking person moving to France and speaking French. It’s not easy.
His rookie year was average but somewhat expected, he played in 11 games and caught 21 receptions for 227 yards. Not bad for a rookie (for comparisons sake Amara Darboh caught 8 receptions for 71 yards this past season). Where he stood out, though, was his average yards per reception at 10.8. Those aren’t bad by any stretch. In his second year with Seattle, his production continued on a progressive curve, increasing his stats to playing in all 16 regular season games and catching 35 balls for 382 yards. At this point, he was starting to develop and get more time on the field. Considering he had an average at best quarterback throwing him the ball in Tarvaris Jackson, the team and fans alike had every right to be excited about his play. He was getting separation, learning the system and, arguably most important for Seattle, he was blocking very well in both the run and pass game when the ball wasn’t coming his way. Pete Carroll has always preached the importance of blocking and many simply see it as a chore, however Tate developed quickly and despite his limited size compared to some DB’s, he was more than holding his own. If you want to get more snaps in Pete Carroll’s system, you block. It’s that simple.
When Russell Wilson came on the scene in 2012, Golden’s stats sky rocketed. You can put this down to two major factors, the first being Russ is a legitimate QB and secondly, Tate was now in his third season with the team, if a WR doesn’t ‘click’ in his second or third season, he typically won’t. He again, started in all 16 games and worked his way up the depth chart (facing competition from the likes of Sidney Rice, Seattle’s leading WR that year and Doug Baldwin, who, at that point, was third on the depth chart). He finished the year second on the team in receiving yards, losing out only to Sidney rice. He nearly doubled his production from that of a season ago with 45 receptions for 688 yards.
2013 saw Golden enter the final year of his rookie contract, he was primed for a big season. In fact, he led the team in receiving yards and catches that year, he had worked his way to the top of the depth chart being Seattle’s number 1 go to guy for Russ. In turned out his last game for Seattle was the Super Bowl win against the Broncos.
Many fans were fully expecting Seattle to lock up their number one receiver for the long haul, however, that wasn’t to be. This is where it gets a bit ‘hazy’ for want of a better word…
Rumours were flying around surrounding an affair with between Golden and Russell Wilson’s wife at the time as well as an altercation in the locker room between him and Percy Harvin. Tate denies both counts however I won’t go into too much detail as this isn’t Jerry Springer.
Pete Carroll said last year that contract talks between the team and Golden’s agent “wasn’t communicated really well’. Golden said the offer he received from Seattle was “laughable”. Ultimately, he ended up signing a 5-year $35,000,000 deal with the Detroit Lions averaging $7,000,000 a year.
His first year was a real middle finger to Seattle, he went off the charts cementing himself as one of the better receivers in the league racking up 1,331 yards off 99 receptions. He finished 6th best league wise in receptions that year and 7th in receiving yards. Considering the only players above him came from the likes of Antonio Brown, Demaryius Thomas, Julio Jones and Emmanuel Sanders, that’s impressive company to be keeping. When you add in the Lions also had Calvin Johnson on the roster, you could very easily argue that Detroit had the best wide receiver tandem by a long shot that year.
2015 wasn’t quite as impressive, although not poor by any stretch. He caught 90 balls for 813 yards, that would have put him behind only Doug Baldwin had he been still on the Seahawks roster that year. But given his production the year past, it’s fair to say Lions fans would have been somewhat disappointed with the apparent downward trend for Golden in 2015. He did play fair with the team when they asked him to restructure his deal, though. Although there was little incentive for him not to as all they did was convert all of his 2015 salary excluding the vet minimum into a signing bonus to spread out his cap hit. The Lions, at the time, were in cap hell and actually $200,000 over the cap limit heading into the deadline, they had to restructure someone.
The following year started off as one to forget for Golden, it appeared that head coach Jim Caldwell benched him following a total breakdown of communication between Tate and Stafford which resulted in an easy pick against the Bears in October, a game they ultimately lost 17-14. However, Tate did get back on track and ended up breaking the 1000-yard barrier that season. 2017 was more of the same as well, with almost identical receptions and yards to the previous year. One stat that labels Tate as elite in this league is YAC (yards after catch), in 2017, Tate was 4th league wide with 639 yards after the catch, he's elusive and can break tackles, those are both very dominating traits of a good to great receiver in the NFL.
2018 see’s Golden in his second contract year of his career. He is set to make a base salary of $7,000,000 as well as his prorated bonus of $2,351,250 which would see cap savings of $7,000,000 if he were to be cut due to the lack of, at present, guarantees for the year. Given Detroit’s cap position of nearly $45,000,000 cutting him seems incredibly unlikely. Will the team want to get him on his third contract long term, though? I doubt it. They may well draft his replacement and hope that 2017 rookie Kenny Golladay follows his career on a similar path to that of Golden’s in years past and Marvin Jones Jr has continued success for the team. With Jones Jr entering his first contract year the year that Golden Tate would no longer be on the roster, my bet is they run with him with a view of signing him long term and letting Tate walk in the 2019 free agency period.
Could Seattle bring back Tate in 2019? I doubt it to be honest.