MIKE O'HARA

O'HARA: The Lions' pitch sold Tate on relocating to Detroit

Posted Mar 12, 2014

A sit-down with Bill Ford, vice-chairman of the franchise, was a key factor in persuading Tate to sign a five-year, reported $31-million contract with the Lions

Starting at the top, the Lions made a sales pitch to Golden Tate that was too attractive for him not to take.

Golden TateWR Golden Tate (Photo: Detroit Lions)

First impressions meant a lot to Tate in the first stop of what he had planned on being a free-agent tour to see if he’d get a better deal than what he was being offered from the Seattle Seahawks. Imagine being 25, and having to make a monumental decision.

A sit-down with Bill Ford, vice-chairman of the franchise, was a key factor in persuading Tate to sign a five-year, reported $31-million contract with the Lions. He has $13.25 million guaranteed.

Whether it’s in the draft or free-agency – or both -- upgrading the receiver position is a significant part of the Lions’ offseason focus. There hasn’t been anyone who can take pressure off Calvin Johnson and provide a consistently viable option when teams double- and triple-team Johnson.

I doubt if the Lions are done adding receivers, especially with a draft that is rich in talent at the position.

Tate had other visits planned, to Jacksonville and the New York Jets, but canceled those when Detroit offered what he wanted.

Tate, who turns 26 in August, is ascending as a receiver – not a star, but a solid player with a valuable role. He hit the free-agent market a little more than a month after the Seahawks had demolished the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII.

Being part of an outstanding young team, with a passionate fan base, and in a good region of the country to call home was a lot to consider leaving behind.

The Lions’ pitch sold Tate on relocating to Detroit.

“There’s a ton of upside to this organization, and the one thing that really stood out to me is that Mr. Ford found some time to meet with me today,” Tate said. “I know he’s been going through a lot lately with family issues, so for him to find time in his busy schedule to meet with me and have a conversation, that meant a lot and I felt like I was wanted here.

“I’m kind of shaking still, but I’m super excited to be here and can’t wait to get started.”

It has been a trying period for Ford and his family. His father, William Clay Ford, died on Sunday. Bill and his father were extremely close.

In addition to lending his hand to the football franchise in the early stages of free-agent signings, Ford also has major responsibilities as executive chairman of the Ford Motor Co.

 “He was just real with me,” Tate said. “You can tell that he wanted me to be here. For me, I want to go to a place where they accept me and want me there, so that was huge.”

They talked about things that matter to Tate. Charity work is a large part of their mutual interest. On a lighter side, so is golf.

Tate also saw an opportunity in how playing in the Lions’ offense can expand his role as a receiver.

Obviously, he loves playing with Johnson – either split wide on the opposite side, in the slot, or on the same side.

In that regard, offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi can script where he wants to position his receivers and let defenses worry about how to cover them.

Tate caught 64 passes last season in a run-oriented offense. The Seahawks threw 420 passes and ran 509 times.

The Lions threw 634 passes against 445 runs.

Tate talked about having Matthew Stafford throwing to him.

“He has an incredible arm,” Tate said. “He can make all types of throws.”

One thing Tate excels at is catching the ball, which has been a lost art in Detroit of late.

The Lions have had one of the league’s highest drop rates the last four seasons. Tate had only 2 drops last season out of 64 catches on 98 targets. He ranked eighth in the league in fewest drops of receivers with 40 or more catches.

What is the value of having good hands?

 “It’s very important,” Tate said. “And that’s why we’re receivers, is because we can catch the ball.”