The rare mid-March snowstorm that dumped 6.5 inches on metro Detroit helped the Lions land one of their top targets in free agency.
Golden Tate spent the morning meeting with Lions coaches and going through medical tests, and when his early afternoon flight to Los Angeles was canceled because of inclement weather, he stayed around the Lions’ Allen Park facility and took a nap in the upstairs sleeping room.
By the time Tate woke up, the Lions and his agent were deep in negotiations on a five-year contract to keep him in Detroit.
“I got a nice little nap in and I woke up and next thing I know I had a great offer on the table that I couldn’t wait to jump on, so it’s been an exciting day,” Tate said. “I’ve loved every moment of it. It’s something new, it’s a new chapter in my life and I’m feeling extremely blessed for myself and my family.”
MORE: Golden Tate signs 5-year deal with Detroit Lions
Tate, who told ESPN his contract is worth $31 million with $13.25 million in guaranteed money, was an ideal fit for an offense looking to overhaul its receiving corps this off-season.
A second-round pick out of Notre Dame in 2010, Tate led the Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks with 64 catches for 898 yards and five touchdowns last year, is capable of playing both the inside and outside receiver positions and is one of the most sure-handed pass catchers in the NFL.
Tate has dropped just five of 149 catchable balls since 2011, according to Pro Football Focus, and he and Calvin Johnson have complementary skill sets that Tate said should give defenses fits.
“I definitely see myself moving around, in the slot, outside, over to Calvin’s side, us stacking sometimes,” Tate said. “I feel like there’s so many things you can do with a player like myself and Calvin that it’s going to be hard to stop us, to be honest. I’m excited to get in the playbook and learn what they have planned and you better believe it, I’m all in and ready to get to work.”
Lions coach Jim Caldwell said Tate’s hands were a big selling point for a team that’s ranked among the league leaders in dropped passes the last few seasons and had little juice at the receiver position outside of Johnson.
The Lions, who plan to add two receivers this spring through free agency and/or the draft, cut Nate Burleson for salary-cap reasons last month and don’t have another receiver outsider of Johnson with even a 40-catch season to his name.
Ryan Broyles is coming off his third straight season-ending leg injury, and while Kris Durham, Kevin Ogletree and return man Jeremy Ross are back, the Lions still are likely to supplement the position with a rookie.
“We were looking from the offensive standpoint to find a guy who could go on the other side and be our No. 2 and play opposite Calvin and certainly give us some work inside and out with immeasurable talent catching the ball,” Caldwell said. “Golden Tate is going to be that individual, and we certainly are pleased to have him.”
MORE: Seahawks free agency coverage from Wednesday
Tate, who said he had an offer from the Seahawks on the table and interest from the New York Jets and Jacksonville Jaguars, said he picked the Lions in part because of their offensive philosophy.
The Lions had the NFL’s third-ranked passing offense last year, and while they have new coaches in Caldwell and offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi, they won’t stray too far from form with Johnson back and Matthew Stafford under center.
The Seahawks attempted just 420 passes last year, second fewest in the league, and were known more for their defense and running game.
“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. “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?”
One other selling point, Tate said, was that he got to spend 15 to 20 minutes with Lions vice chairman Bill Ford Jr. during his visit. Except for the most serious negotiations, players and owners don’t typically intermingle on free-agent visits.
Tate said he and Ford talked about golfing, their charitable interests – he works closely with autistic children and support groups for families battling cancer – and, of course, football.
The Lions are scheduled to host fullback Henry Hynoski on a free-agent visit Thursday, still have a major hole they hope to fill at safety, and have several of their own free agents to try and re-sign including tight end Brandon Pettigrew, defensive end Willie Young and backup quarterback Shaun Hill.
“I was sitting in my bed last night watching highlights of Detroit and I just felt like I could call this place home,” Tate said. “I’ve lived in the Midwest before going to Notre Dame, so I’m familiar with the weather. That was kind of why I wanted to come here, obviously.
“I’m kind of shaking still, but I’m super excited to be here and can’t wait to get started.”
Wow I'm officially a Detroit #Lion. Extremely excited about the opportunity to grow with this organization.— Golden Tate (@ShowtimeTate) March 12, 2014
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