After touching down in California late Wednesday night to end a whirlwind day, Golden Tate talked to Pete Carroll.
Carroll, who had worked with Tate’s approach and game since the Seahawks drafted him in the second round in 2010, wished him luck, saying he was happy to have coached Tate. Tate thanked him for his patience and the opportunity to develop as a player, resulting in Tate being the Seahawks’ leading wide receiver last season.
In typical Carroll fashion, he reminded Tate to compete at his next stop. Tate responded, “Isn’t that why you drafted me in the first place, because I’m a competitor?”
Carroll agreed, and that was the end of their final conversation as part of the same effort.
Earlier in the night, Tate had left the only organization he’s known in professional football when he signed a five-year, $31 million contract with the Detroit Lions. He received $13.25 million guaranteed, which was the crucial number.
The Seahawks had made a “really, really, really low” offer 10 days ago, according to Tate, before upping the number significantly Wednesday while his agent negotiated with the Lions. At the Lions’ facility, Tate received what the Seahawks said was their final offer. He signed with Detroit.
“As a player in my situation, nothing is guaranteed,” Tate told the News Tribune. “You’re not guaranteed to play tomorrow, the next day or three years from now. A guarantee, in my mind, is all I really count as my salary. What I was going to get in the first (year with Detroit) was close to what (the Seahawks) were going to give me over a couple years, so I had to jump.
“The number I had in mind was not really similar,” Tate said. “The number didn’t match up to me how I valued myself, and how my agent valued me. The Seahawks tried, I think they tried.”
Which left Tate repeating the word “bittersweet.”
Tate had more time to think during his four-and-half hour flight back to California from Detroit. He was scheduled to leave Wednesday morning, but a snowstorm postponed his flight. He went upstairs to take a nap. When he awoke, his agent and the Lions were figuring out a contract which he later signed.
Tate had often professed his love for the Seahawks and Seattle. He sprawled across the the painted “12th Man” logo on the side of the field after the Seahawks beat the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC title game.
“It’s bittersweet,” Tate said. “I understand the business of NFL football. I understand the money situation and I get that all. My thing is the relationships that I developed in the lockerroom. I don’t even know if I can get that close again with a group. I hope I can.
“It’s tough emotionally to leave the guys that you put so much work in (with) for years, not over a summer, for years to get to one thing and we achieved that and that’s a bond I’ll never forget. If I’m struggling with anything, that’s what I’m struggling with. Because I feel like I had great relationships from top to bottom.”
Tate had hoped that his play, work in the community and ease in the lockerroom would make him indispensable to the Seahawks, though the team is clearly operating on a run- and defense-first structure.
“I was hoping that all those things were going to make a case for me to them: Hey, look, every penny that we’re spending on this guy, even if they felt I was slightly overpaid for the position that they use in Seattle, that I proved that so much, that they would say, ‘We’re going to take care of this guy and we can’t afford to lose him.’
“At the end of the day, it didn’t work out that way.”
Tate heads to Detroit where he will be opposite all-world Calvin Johnson as part of an offense whose starting quarterback, Matthew Stafford, threw 227 more times than Russell Wilson last season. The Lions finished 7-9 last season, losing their final four games.
He knows the focus on his results will shift because of his new contract and the different offensive approach. He’s happy about joining the Lions, where he knows wide receiver Kris Durham (from Durham’s time in Seattle), running back Theo Riddick (Notre Dame), and even Stafford.
“Coming into a situation where I’m considered a highly paid guy, all eyes are going to be on me,” Tate said. “What’s this player like? Is he worth every cent they paid him? Is he going to be healthy? Is he going to catch everything?”
Tate is hoping to take what he learned while with the Seahawks and apply it in Detroit. He said he wouldn’t change anything — from his draft spot to his bumps the first two seasons. He also repeated his affinity for the Seahawks, his teammates and Seattle, saying he’s heard support from disappointed staffers and fans who, like Tate, had hoped he was going to stay. Those interactions, Tate said, were a signal to him he did things the right way in Seattle.
“Bittersweet like I keep saying,” Tate said. “I have a great opportunity to do some special things. I’m excited.
“I’ll just have to take some trips with my guys Russ, (Doug) Baldwin, (Jermaine) Kearse and Sid(ney Rice) and all of those guys. I’m definitely going to be a Seahawk fan for the rest of my life. I’m definitely going to feel like I could walk into the lockerroom six months from now and feel like I fit in.”