What if the Seahawks had kept Golden Tate?
Approached at his locker late in December, former Seahawks wide receiver Golden Tate took the high road.
“I’m very happy and thankful with the decision I made to come be a Lion,” Tate told NFP. “I’m not having any regrets or looking back.”
The Seahawks, though, may regret not re-upping Tate, who signed with the Lions for five years and $31 million during the 2014 offseason.
A major reason the Seahawks did not match that was because they had signed wide receiver Percy Harvin to a five-year, $64.2 million contract extension on March 13, 2013 after acquiring him from the Vikings.
Seattle lost Super Bowl XLIX because of a poor play call when it had the ball at the New England one-yard-line at the end of the game. Seattle lost the game because it allowed Patriots quarterback Tom Brady to throw for 328 yards and four touchdowns.
But if Tate was still on the team, perhaps quarterback Russell Wilson throws for more than 247 yards, including just 84 in the first half. Perhaps the Seahawks score more than 24 points. Perhaps Richardo Lockette, the intended receiver on the goal-line interception, is on the bench, and Tate makes the touchdown grab.
Seattle’s biggest coaching gaffe — and one of the poorer play calls of all time — was having Wilson throw a slant pass from the one instead of giving the ball to Marshawn Lynch.
But Seattle’s biggest personnel gaffe was signing Harvin to an extension instead of Tate.
Harvin’s presence reportedly divided the locker room, forcing Seattle to trade him to the Jets during Week 7 of this year. He played in just six regular-season games over the course of two seasons for the Seahawks.
Without Harvin or Tate, the Seahawks were left with a major void at receiver. During the regular season, Seattle’s leading receiver, Doug Baldwin, ranked 42nd in the league in yardage (825 yards) and receptions (66).
Though he played in a more wide-open offense with the Lions than Baldwin did with the Seahawks, Tate finished seventh in the NFL in yards (1,331) and sixth in catches (99).
And that’s not just a byproduct of lining up opposite Calvin Johnson. Megatron, who had fewer catches (71) and yards (1,077) than Tate, missed three games this year with an ankle injury.
“(Tate has) certainly been able to add some spark,” Lions coach Jim Caldwell told NFP in December, “in particular when Calvin was hurt.”
Whether or not Johnson was in the lineup, the Lions moved Tate all over the formation, including in the left and right slot and as the outside receiver.
All season long he demonstrated his deft blocking skills, competitiveness, ball skills and a catch radius that belies his 5-11 height.
Tate set career highs in yards, receptions and touchdowns — far exceeding his production with the Seahawks.
But he did not exceed the Lions’ expectations for him.
“We knew what we were getting in terms of a talented individual,” Caldwell said. “We knew exactly what he was capable of doing, even though his first few years in the league, maybe perhaps he didn’t catch the ball as much as he’s caught it for us. We certainly knew he had the potential to be exactly who he is.”
Caldwell was aware of that potential when Tate entered the league. While serving as head coach of the Colts, Caldwell worked under general manager Bill Polian, whose son, Brian, was the special teams coordinator at Notre Dame.
As a result, Bill Polian visited Notre Dame even more frequently than other college venues and scouted Fighting Irish receiver Golden Tate very extensively.
“He was probably one of the guys I heard more about as a collegiate player than anyone,” Caldwell said.
Tate’s former team, the Seahawks, could target a wide receiver in the 2015 Draft.
They ranked 27th in the league in passing yardage, and their No. 2 wide receiver, Jermaine Kearse, had just 38 catches for 537 yards and a touchdown, though he did make a fantastic juggling catch to put the ball at the New England one-yard-line at the end of Super Bowl XLIX.
Chris Matthews, who didn’t have a catch in his career before the Super Bowl, had four for 109 yards on the biggest stage.
Last year the Seahawks selected Paul Richardson in the second round, but the 175-pound target had just 29 catches for 271 yards before tearing his ACL during the divisional playoff game against the Panthers. Kevin Norwood, who was selected in the fourth round of the 2014 Draft, had nine catches for 102 yards on the season.
The player, whose production they were trying to replace, remains content with how his career is unfolding in Detroit.
“I was just happy I was given the chance to become the player that I kind of always envisioned,” Tate said.
Follow Jeff on Twitter: @JFedotin
Jeff Fedotin has written for Packers.com, Pro Football Weekly, ESPN The Magazine, the Lawrence (Kan.) Journal-World and Rivals.com. After graduating from Northwestern University, he interned for the Buffalo Bills. During his football playing days at Pembroke Hill (Mo.) School, Fedotin was known for his bad knees and even worse blocking.