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Tate thinks teams passed him over due to rookie WR crop

By Josh Katzenstein, The Detroit News

Allen Park — Golden Tate explained Friday why he thinks he wasn't on the wish list of more NFL teams in March.

"I think because they thought they had such a strong draft class," he said in front of his locker. "I think we had five or six, seven top receivers in this class, so there's no need to go pay a lot of money when you can get a rookie for pennies, relatively speaking. Maybe that's why, but I'm here, I'm wanted here, we're sitting 7-2 and I'm playing decent football."

The 2014 draft was loaded with talent, and five wide outs went in the first round — Sammy Watkins, Mike Evans, Odell Beckham Jr., Brandin Cooks and Kelvin Benjamin. Other rookie receivers have been plenty productive, too, including Jarvis Landry, Jordan Matthews, Davante Adams, Martavis Bryant and John Brown.

During the casual interview in front of his locker, Tate also said he still wishes the Seattle Seahawks the best except when they play the Lions, which led to a Beowulf quote he recalled from an English teacher. If the Lions and Seahawks play this season, it wouldn't happen until the playoffs.

"Fate will unwind as it must," Tate said.

When free agency began last March, Tate expected his fate to be one of high demand. He was coming off a career-year with 64 catches for 898 yards and had just won the Super Bowl with the Seahawks.

"I'm not going to lie, I thought I would be a hot commodity," he said. "That wasn't the case at all, which is OK. I guess all you need is one team to really love you."

Tate said the New York Jets and Jacksonville Jaguars showed some interest, but not as much as the Lions and Seahawks, who he said presented a "laughable" offer in March.

"I was kind of bummed," Tate said. "I thought I had a decent season. I thought I handled business. I just felt like I wasn't the typical 6-2, running a 4.2 guy, which kind of hurt me I guess. I'm here for a reason. I think god has a plan for each of us, and his plan was for me to be here.

"And right now I think he had a pretty darn good plan."

The Lions gave the 5-foot-10 Tate a five-year, $31 million deal, the second richest contract given to a free-agent receiver last year behind the five-year, $36.25 million deal the Jets gave Eric Decker. And Tate has blossomed this year in the pass-heavy Lions offense, already setting new career highs with 66 catches for 909 yards.

Tate said the decision to sign with the Lions has worked out just as he'd hoped. Coach Jim Caldwell and offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi expressed excitement about how they'd use him, and he thought playing with Calvin Johnson would create plenty of opportunities in single coverage.

Johnson missed three games, and Tate averaged 116.3 yards without him. But he's been plenty effective with Johnson on the field, too. Ranking second in receptions and fourth in receiving yards, Tate looks like one of the top free-agent signings of recent past.

"I was OK with having 30 yards a game last year because we were winning and were Super Bowl champs so it was OK," Tate said. "The fact that I get to ball out and also win games, it doesn't get any better."