Lions general manager Bob Quinn talks about the team designating Ezekiel Ansah with the franchise tag Wednesday in Indianapolis. John Niyo, Detroit News
Orlando, Fla. — The Detroit Lions have aggressively extended the contracts of a number of key contributors under general manager Bob Quinn, and if the pattern holds, wide receiver Golden Tate could be next on the docket.
Quinn said he hasn’t thought that far ahead, preferring to explore that possibility later in the summer, well into the offseason program, and with the chaos of the draft in the rearview mirror.
“I think all those things, in my time here, have happened in the summer,” Quinn said. “I think our concentration and our focus right now is on the draft. Things that come down the road after that, they’ll come and go and we’ll talk through it.”
Tate is entering the final year of a five-year, $31 million deal he signed in 2014. He’s proved to be a bargain at that cost, catching at least 90 passes each of the past four years and regularly finishing among the league leaders in yards after the catch.
In the two years under Quinn's stewardship, the Lions have signed quarterback Matthew Stafford, cornerback Darius Slay, safety Glover Quin, running back Theo Riddick and punter Sam Martin to extensions in the month before the start of the regular season.
There’s no certainty whether Tate will join that club. He’s primed for a big raise, with guys like Allen Robinson and Sammy Watkins pulling down deals averaging $16 million and $14 million, respectively, this offseason.
The biggest difference is Tate’s age. He’ll turn 30 during training camp, which could limit how much the Lions are looking to invest in him, both in terms of contract length and financially.
Regardless, cap space shouldn’t be an issue. The team has approximately $11 million remaining and Quinn intends to enter the season with a healthy buffer, just for reasons such as this.
“We always leave a buffer,” Quinn said. “I’m not getting into specifics about how much. But there’s practice squad salaries, there’s draft picks, there’s injury replacements during the season, there’s possible extensions in training camp.
“There’s a myriad of things that we always keep a buffer for,” he said. “You’re never going to see us go close to the cap this time of year. That’s just not good business. You always have to keep that for contingency plans and for emergency plans during the year.”