Allen Park – It’s holdout season around the NFL.
Aaron Donald, Le’Veon Bell and Earl Thomas, all with All-Pro resumes, aren’t in training camp for their respective teams, while wide receiver Julio Jones was actually able to parlay his brief absence into a re-negotiated deal with the Atlanta Falcons.
For Detroit Lions wide receiver Golden Tate, the thought of not showing up never crossed his mind.
“I signed a five-year contract and I’m going to honor my part of the contract the best I possibly can,” Tate said after the team’s first training camp practice on Friday. “I love the game a lot. I want to be here, around the guys, building camaraderie.”
Tate signed with the Lions in 2014, after spending his first four seasons in Seattle. During his four years with the Lions, he’s exceeded all expectations. He’s caught at least 90 passes each season, been a leader in the locker room and a role model in the community, with a foundation dedicated to providing support to military veterans.
Relatively speaking, his $31 million contract has been a bargain for the franchise.
Tate was one of the last players off the practice field Friday, staying after to chat with general manager Bob Quinn and his family, reminiscent to the way the veteran receiver takes a few minutes to talk with owner Martha Ford before games during the season.
In his two-plus seasons as Detroit’s GM, Quinn has shown a willingness to work out contract extensions during this time of year. In 2017, it was quarterback Matthew Stafford and safety Glover Quin. The year before it was cornerback Darius Slay, running back Theo Riddick and punter Sam Martin.
The casual conversation with Tate didn’t touch on contract topics, and according to the receiver, he’d prefer to remain hands off with negotiations now that camp has started.
“You know, one thing, I pay my agent a lot of money,” Tate said. “I told him, ‘Look, I just want to play football. I’ll let you guys handle that. Let me go into camp free-minded, just perform, be the best I possibly can.' Especially with all the new components, with the coaching and things going on around the facility, I don’t have time to really think about contracts and all that kind of stuff.”
Tate did acknowledge the two sides had dialogue earlier in the offseason, but claimed he hasn't heard any recent updates. It’s unclear whether that means the tricky negotiations for the soon-to-be 30-year-old receiver have stalled or his agent is simply respecting his client’s wishes to limit the potential distraction.
“I just told my agent to let me play ball, especially once I get to camp, just to let me focus,” Tate said. “That’s what they’re doing.”
A number of receivers have signed massive extensions this offseason. Jarvis Landry scored a five-year, $75 million deal from the Browns, the Buccaneers gave Mike Evans $82.5 million for the same duration and Brandin Cooks joined the party this week, inking a $81 million, five-year pact with the Rams.
Tate’s eyes got big when asked about those deals. He quipped that he hoped there’s some money left, before adding he’s thrilled for his peers. The obvious difference between him and that trio is the oldest from the group is 25. Tate turns 30 next week.
“I wouldn’t say I feel old, or anything,” Tate said. “I still produce and I still recover fast enough for Sundays and that’s all that really matters. There was a time, in college, where I would take some pretty serious hits and wouldn’t even be sore the next day. I never spent time in the training room. Now, if I take a big hit, I better slot my role a little bit. Get on all the machines, all that stuff.
“I feel good. I feel young,” he said. “I feel like I’m running around, flying around with these young guys and I feel like I’m still productive.”
To this point, Tate has shown no signs of slowing down. He remains one of the NFL’s most-elusive open-field receivers, continually finishing near the top of the league in making tacklers miss and yards after the catch.
“It’s been one of the gifts that God has blessed me with is very strong legs,” Tate said. “I take a lot of pride in the weight room with my legs lifts, and (trainer Harold Nash) pushes us to be strong. It’s just one of my gifts I’m very thankful I have.”
But like all contracts, his next deal won’t be for what he’s done, it will be for what he’s expected to do going forward. The team must decide whether he's capable of playing at that level three or four years beyond this season.
At this point, Tate is prepared to ride this season out with an uncertain future.
“It doesn’t matter,” he said. “I signed a five-year deal and I’m going to honor my part by playing the best I possibly can, nitty-gritty football, trying to help this team.
“It will all work out exactly how it’s supposed to work out.”