Does the Golden Tate trade make sense? Yes. So does being angry about it

Jamie Samuelsen
Special to the Detroit Free Press
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Jamie Samuelsen, co-host of the "Jamie and Stoney" show at 6 a.m. weekdays on WXYT-FM (97.1), blogs for His opinions do not necessarily reflect those of the Detroit Free Press nor its writers. You can reach him at and follow him on Twitter @jamiesamuelsen.

Where do you land on the Detroit Lions trading Golden Tate: Good idea or bad idea?

The Golden Tate trade boils down to two questions:

1. Can the Lions win the Super Bowl this season?

2. Does the trade help the Lions in 2019 and beyond?

Lions wide receiver Golden Tate fumbles the ball on a tackle by Dolphins linebacker Raekwon McMillan during the second half of the Lions' 32-21 win on Sunday, Oct. 21, 2018, in Miami Gardens, Fla.

The answer to question No. 1 is an unequivocal no. The Lions are 3-4. Even if they were to win the mediocre NFC North (which would mean they probably have to win in Green Bay, Minnesota and Chicago), they don’t compare to the Rams or the Saints, the two best teams in the NFC.

As for question No. 2, the added draft pick certainly can’t hurt them. Of course there are no guarantees at that point in the draft. Kenny Golladay was a third-round pick who currently looks like a steal. Running back Brian Calhoun was a third-round pick for Matt Millen who was certainly not a steal. If history is any guide, the Lions have actually done well in the third round over the years. Graham Glasgow, Larry Warford, DeAndre Levy and Cliff Avril were all third-round picks who made major impacts on the roster and were starters in their rookie seasons.

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But again, we don’t know how that pick will go. We don’t even know if Bob Quinn will use that pick to trade up or trade down or trade into the 2020 draft. It’s a chip. And it’s one more chip than the Lions had before they traded Tate yesterday.

I totally understand the affection that this city has for Golden Tate. He is, in my mind, the greatest free-agent signing in the history of the franchise. He averaged 90 catches or better during his four-plus seasons here and is on track to have another 90 this season. He was a class act on and off the field. He always had time for the media and for fans. He and his wife were active in the community and embraced the city. Since Calvin Johnson retired, he’s been the best offensive weapon on this football team.

But, he’s 30. And in football terms, especially skill position terms, that’s ancient. Tate will get a new contract this off-season from a team that is a wide receiver away from contending. It will pay him well and give him the security that he desires and deserves. But it will be a bad contract the moment it’s signed because he will decline as a football player. It’s not opinion. It’s not an insult. It’s fact. Wide receivers in their 30s start to fall off in their production. The Lions have Marvin Jones here for two more seasons and Golladay’s career is clearly on the ascent. Having three wide receivers is a nice luxury to have. Having a good defensive line is even better. Tate, even though he’s the Lions best receiver, is a luxury. This team can still move the ball, still score, and still win with Jones and Golladay.

Not to mention with Kerryon Johnson as well. The Tate trade underlines just how important Johnson and Golladay are to this team over the final nine weeks and going forward. If Golladay can put up numbers like he did for the first five weeks and Johnson can run like he did against the Patriots and the Dolphins, this offense will be just fine. Let’s not forget too that the Lions have had good fortune this year in terms of health (other than Ziggy Ansah and T.J. Lang for a couple of games). Despite that, they are still 3-4. What makes you think that this team was ready for a 6-3 finish to put them at 9-7. Will 9-7 get you into the playoffs? It might in this year’s NFC. But with this run defense playing the way that it is, getting into the playoffs is the best that the Lions can hope for.

Quinn has made two shrewd deals over the past week acquiring Damon Harrison from the Giants and sending Tate to the Eagles. As is his style, Quinn has not spoken with the media at all during the regular season so it’s hard to know exactly what he thinks about this year’s team and their chances to make the playoffs. The Harrison deal seems to be a statement that the Lions are going for it. The Tate deal appears to be the opposite.

Really, neither trade is that simple to diagnose. Harrison is here for the next two years, so he helps the run defense in the present and the future. Tate was not going to return and the offense should still be good enough to contend. So that trade was made with an eye on the future. Quinn probably wishes that he never said that last year’s team was better than 9-7 when he dismissed Jim Caldwell. That just raised the level of expectations for this season. But head coach Matt Patricia tamped those expectations down when he started training camp this season saying that he’s not focused on a win total for 2018, he’s focused on building a sustainable program. Both of the trades over the last week support that goal.

Emotion is on the side of Tate. Rational thinking is on the side of the trade. The Lions aren’t good enough this year. They have a chance to be better next year. Once you admit that both of those things are true, which they are, the Tate trade makes all the sense in the world.


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