BY Steve Rudman 06:00AM 03/14/2014

Why Golden Tate jumped to Detroit Lions

Golden Tate was presented with the opportunity of his young lifetime, and he took it, signing with the Detroit Lions for $31 million over five years.

Wide receiver Golden Tate received an offer from the Detroit Lions that he couldn’t possibly turn down. / Drew McKenzie, Sportspress Northwest

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.


  • jafabian

    I don’t think Tate will have that much different of a season statisitically than he would as a Seahawk. Calvin Johnson demands the ball on his ability alone. Since he became a Lion no other WR for the Lions has eclipsed the 1000 yard mark and only once has a WR had more yardage than Johnson. And that was in his rookie year when he caught for 700+ yards and Shaun McDonald had 900+. The past two years no WR, including RBs and TEs no Lion has caught for more than 550. IMO, this is part of the reason why the Lions haven’t had much success. They need to spread the offense around. I’ve noticed when the Hawks do that they win big. When they limit themselves they have problems.

    From the column here it sounds like Tate’s agent took the initiative and he liked the end result. But since he’s getting $13 mil up front that tells me he could very well be waived after two seasons.

    • Arzurama

      Great, then maybe we pick him up again. We’ll see what unfolds. For now, he’s taking care of business

      • jafabian

        That’s in 2 years. The Hawks will most likely have addressed replacing him by then. Schneider and Carroll most likely planned for this based on how they operate.

        • Arzurama

          Sorry, I was being facetious, it failed to come across.

    • bumboclot

      Tate was signed to get defenses off Johnson. I think he’ll succeed where others have failed in that role, because of his versatility. He can do pretty much anything on offense so the coaches can really use their imagination while designing plays to get him or Johnson open.

      • jafabian

        Nate Burleson was brought in for the same reason and he never cracked the 1000 yard mark as a Lion. I also think that Stafford isn’t nearly the QB Wilson is.

        • bumboclot

          Tate is better than Burleson, but they’ve tried many others as well over the years. Tough to say about those QBs. I suppose Wilson could easily throw 100 passes a game like Stafford if he was asked to. But I’m not so sure Stafford could be effective taking over Wilson’s role as a ball control QB. It’s not an easy job. So I’d give Wilson the edge as well.

  • ksmyth

    Football is a business. The salary cap in football creates an entirely different game within a game than the lack of one in baseball or the joke of a cap in basketball. It will be interesting to see how the Seahawks fill the holes created by the need to get under the cap, or players like Tate seeking greener pastures. The abillity to replace talent with equivalent or superior talent will demonstrate Schneider and Carroll’s real genius . . . or not.

  • Daddy Love

    Detroit lost 7 games last season by 4 or fewer points, five games by three points or less. With Tate as a WR, maybe not such a “crap” team.

    • bumboclot

      Yeah, with him and Megatron, they won’t have any problem scoring. Their D needs work though.

  • Scott Crosser

    Lions pretty much eat their payroll with one defender and 4 offense weapons now. We will see if they can fill in voids they never have in the past.

  • Arzurama

    I completely support Tate’s decision. He was easily one of my favorite Hawks, but as a competitor (even aside from the bucket load-more $$) he wants to shine. Detroit will allow that. It’s certainly not Seattle, but the man is smart to take this step. I’ll miss him, but wish him the best

  • WestCoastBias79

    If the Seahawks thought he was worth as much as the Lions do, they would have come at least close. If the Lions and Hawks offers were similar, and Tate still bolted, feel free to feel jilted and talk smack, however, they weren’t. I’m loyal to my employer, but if I’m offered twice as much to leave, I’m gone. Pretty sure anyone who is honest would say the same thing.

  • Alex

    Hawks blew it with Tate and should have recognized his continued improvement to becoming a near pro bowl player and locked him up last year. He was a big part of the heart and soul of the Hawks and ShowTime will be missed BigTime

  • Jamo57

    Well, he can always live in Grosse Pointe or Windsor, ONT.

  • Will

    Big bucks I understand but Deetroit is still Deetroit, not exactly a Top Pot kind of city.

  • NFL stands for No F****** Loyalty. It’s about winning games for the teams, and short careers for the players. Golden is playing it smart. Hard to find fault. Red Bryant stayed loyal; he’s in Jacksonville. That’s how that worked out.

  • Michael

    Good luck to ya Golden! The 12th man will miss you and all you’ve done for our team.

  • Jeff Shope

    because thats what teams with one playoff wins in 57 years do overpay for guys who are not worth it and it shows on the field spending that kind of money on 2 receivers is just plain stupid it handcuffs the rest of team guaranteeing huge deficiencies in other areas. But he got paid well good for him but he will never see the superbowl again.

  • bumboclot

    Tate was smart to go. He got a ring now, and his position has already been replaced on Seattle by Harvin. Maybe I would have signed on with Seattle for 1 year to defend that title, but NFL has so much injury risk, you just have to go for the big contract when you can!

  • God Mann

    I wouldn’t put Detroit down too much. With the one-two punch of Tate and Johnson, Detroit might be able to take the NFC Central Division, and who knows where they can go from there. Remember, Detroit had a good run early in the season.

  • Leroy Jr Deardorff

    it is what it is. he had his spotlight in seattle. its time to shine on a team who is going to throw more to him and give him a chance to rack the stats up. he is going to be a top receiver in the NFL and probably would have already if seattle woulda thrown to him more. anybody who would have had that kind of money thrown at him would have jumped at it. GOOD JOB TATE you sure are going to be missed. no seattle don’t let to many of these guys slip away. we need HAUSHKA’S leg on the team so don’t lose this guy.

  • notaboomer

    gtate jumped to the nliedowns for the obvious reason that matt stafford haz mad xbox skillz and likes to party instead of thanking god all the time like russ wilson.