Seahawks GM: Tate's success with Lions 'hard to watch'

Josh Katzenstein
The Detroit News
Lions receiver Golden Tate played running back in high school.

Phoenix — Because of the gradual process he showed in his four years with the Seattle Seahawks, it was surprising to see wide receiver Golden Tate hit the open market as a free agent last offseason following the team's Super Bowl win, and even more of a shock to hear him describe the team's offer as laughable.

Adding to the head-scratching decision is what Seahawks general manager John Schneider described as an intimate relationship with his former player.

"He's like a little brother to me," Schneider said at the NFL annual meeting. "It was very hard to lose him in free agency. I was proud of him. Personally, it's hard to watch, but you have to feel great for somebody that's getting as many balls as he's getting. He's a really talented football player."

While Tate was in the midst of a highly-productive 2014 season, Tate explained that he thought he didn't attract as much interest in free agency because of the depth of the incoming rookie class of wide receivers.

Schneider said the rookie class played a key role in the Seahawks' decision to let him walk, choosing to pursue a lucrative contract with defensive end Michael Bennett instead of Tate.

"We had a tough decision to make because when Golden left, it was free agency and you're trying to hang on to a pass rusher or a receiver," he said. "As cold as it sounds, the way our college board looked, it looked like there was going to be more receivers than pass rushers, especially when you're picking 32nd."

The Seahawks ultimately traded down from the No. 32 pick, giving the Vikings a chance to move up to take Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, and at No. 45 in the second round, Seattle selected Colorado receiver Paul Richardson, who had 29 catches for 271 yards and one touchdown in 15 games as a rookie.

Bennett, whom the Seahawks signed to a four-year, $32 million deal, had seven sacks and helped Seattle maintain the No. 1 defense for the second year in a row. And even though Seattle missed Tate's production, the team still advanced to the Super Bowl while leaning on receivers Jermaine Kearse and Doug Baldwin.

Schneider said he thought Tate was one of the best players in the country when he came out of Notre Dame and Seattle selected him in the second round in 2010. In their four years together, Schneider said he and Tate became close.

"We've had some real serious talks just about life and where he was in his career, and trying to help him, not necessarily with his confidence, but just where he was as a pro and moving forward and being the best he could be," he said.

In 2014, Tate had career highs of 99 catches for 1,331 yards in Detroit. Like Schneider, Lions coach Jim Caldwell said it's important to build relations with all players, and Tate's competitive edge was a bonus for the locker room.

"I want to be able to get to the core and find out who this guy is and what makes him tick. Golden is one of those individuals; it doesn't take you long because he's going to tell you," Caldwell said. "He's going to express it and he's really a lot of fun to be around. Highly competitive and highly effective. The guy wants the ball, and when he gets it, he can do something with it. So you can't help but love that kind of attitude; you can't help but follow that kind of guy from a leadership standpoint."