By Danny O’Neil
Losses are inevitable in the NFL.
That’s as true in free agency as it is on the football field, and Wednesday’s news that wide receiver Golden Tate was headed to Detroit constitutes the most significant free-agent loss the Seahawks have suffered under general manager John Schneider.
Players have left before. Good players like Nate Burleson. Even a great Seahawk like Matt Hasselbeck, but those were instances in which the team moved on as much as the player did.
Tate is different. He was someone Seattle drafted, someone Seattle developed and the one who led this run-first offense in receptions during a Super Bowl season. And he didn’t leave for a jaw-dropping sum of money.
Five years at just over $30 million? That’s not Percy Harvin money. It’s not Mike Wallace money. More like Brian Hartline money.
It was not exorbitant, and the fact that Tate is gone shows the level of financial discipline that Seattle must have. The Seahawks truly can’t sign everyone who has been important — essential even — to the team’s success so far. Not with Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas due for extensions, Russell Wilson’s new deal looming a year from now and Harvin set to be counting more than $10 million against the cap beginning this season.
Letting Tate go wasn’t a case of financial belt tightening like releasing Sidney Rice or Chris Clemons or even Red Bryant. This was Seattle making a value judgment, and deciding that paying Tate a contract that averaged more than $6 million just wasn’t worth it to retain him.
It’s not going to be the last time Seattle is forced to make a decision like that, and in some ways, the biggest surprise is that it has taken this long before the team had to wave goodbye instead of reaching for its wallet. An NFL team can’t afford to reward everyone after winning the Super Bowl. At least not with a salary cap.
That doesn’t make Tate’s departure any less difficult, though. And now that Seattle has decided that Tate was too expensive, the question is how costly his loss will turn out to be.