By Danny O’Neil
The Seahawks waited two years before Golden Tate emerged as the game-changing talent they believed he would be, which makes it kind of odd there would be still be uncertainty about his future in Seattle beyond next season.
That’s one of the side effects of having one of the NFL’s most aggressive offseasons because Seattle went and added receiver Percy Harvin – among others – to what was already one of the league’s youngest rosters.
Seahwks wide receiver Golden Tate caught seven touchdown passes and threw one himself during a breakout 2012 season. (AP)
He plays the same position as Tate, who is coming off a breakout season in which he caught 45 passes and showed a distinct nose for the end zone. Tate caught seven touchdown passes, threw a scoring pass himself and played so physically that the Dallas Cowboys’ owner left town complaining about the dent that mean old Golden Tate left in the chest of his team’s middle linebacker.
Tate has arrived. There is no doubt about that after last season. The question is whether he’ll be staying after this season, which is the last on the four-year rookie contract he signed with the Seahawks. It’s a question that was complicated when Seattle added Harvin this offseason, giving up three draft picks – including this year’s first-round pick – and $67 million to do it.
The players are the same age, each turning 25 this year. They are both receivers who’ve been compared to running backs in the way they move with the ball in the open field. Both will play a factor on special teams, Tate returning punts while Harvin handles kickoffs.
But Harvin is an inch taller, a bit faster and he’s the one with a contract that runs through the next six seasons, which brings us back to Tate.
There might not be a player currently on Seattle’s roster with more to gain this year than Tate, who will try to prove himself to be a player the Seahawks simply can’t afford to lose.
Seattle’s staff believes that the addition of Harvin – and the attention he will command – will open things up for Tate, but the question of how the Seahawks plan to use both players is going to be one of the most compelling subplots of this offseason.
Not that the scrutiny will be anything new for Tate. He has been under a microscope ever since Seattle drafted him in the second round in 2010 out of Notre Dame, the No. 60 pick overall but a player the Seahawks evaluated as a first-round talent. He certainly looked it during that year’s rookie minicamp, raising eyebrows – and expectations – to anyone who watched practice.
It heightened expectations for a rookie season that turned out to be more of a false start. He was a healthy scratch for the season-opener, the discipline of his route running not up to the expectations of offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates. He didn’t catch more than four passes in any game during his rookie season and failed to score a touchdown.
His second year didn’t start out all that much better. He didn’t catch more than two passes in any of the first eight games, but that changed over the final month of the season as he caught 19 passes over the last five games, generating a momentum that carried over to 2012.
Now, Seattle will be sticking with the same starting quarterback for the first time in Tate’s tenure with the team, and he’s in his third season in Darrell Bevell’s offense.
It could be his time to shine if only there weren’t those questions about whether he will be eclipsed after the addition of Harvin. No team can have too many playmakers, but Harvin’s addition raises the stakes for Tate this year.
And so the scrutiny on Tate continues. The difference is that this year, no one is waiting to see if Tate finally plays up to his ability. The question now is whether he will be staying.