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Lions Roundtable: Was trading Golden Tate the right move?

Detroit traded Golden Tate on Tuesday, but was it a trick or treat for this organization?

NFL: Detroit Lions at Tampa Bay Buccaneers Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

First things first, if you’re unfamiliar with our roundtable or how it works, check out our archive and some of our most recent discussions from this season:

Let’s kick things off the right way and celebrate the time Golden Tate spent here in Detroit:

When you’re done remembering the greatest on-the-field accomplishment of No. 15, and after you’re through with getting our thoughts on the trade the Lions made at yesterday’s trade deadline, go ahead and relive the greatest moments in Tate’s career as a Lion courtesy of Mansur Shaheen.




Alright, let’s get right into our discussion for this week before things get more sentimental than I’ve already made them:

Was trading Golden Tate the right move?

Ryan Mathews: This isn’t therapy, folks. It’s a chance for us to determine if this was the right deal for the Detroit Lions as an organization.

Of course, the compensation for Tate is why this deal makes sense for Detroit. Before the news of Detroit and Philadelphia reaching an agreement, the Houston Texans put together a deal for Demaryius Thomas from the Denver Broncos, and that move only netted the Broncos a fourth-round pick in return for a player who has another year on his contract beyond 2018—at a figure I should make clear the Texans likely won’t want on their books, but still, it’s an option. The Lions were able to turn nine games of Golden Tate into a pick on the second day of the draft, recouping the capital they had to spend to move up and nab Kerryon Johnson.

Mansur Shaheen: A third-round pick was not as much as I thought the Lions would recoup for Tate, but it is a deal I am fine with. I love Tate and he is one of my all-time favorite Detroit Lions, but if an extension was not in the cards then this was the best move for the future.

I am worried about the Lions diving too deep into the “Patriot Way”, though. New England has the reputation of being a ruthless organization with no real regard for their players. They will trade or release players at the drop of a hat and are often criticized for being a “no fun” organization that has no loyalty to the players on the field. They can get away with it because they win, though. Detroit has now suddenly gotten rid of both Eric Ebron and Golden Tate and still don’t look set to win anything.

If you are an upcoming free agent, why join the Lions if this is what they are going to do to important pieces of the team?

Chris Perfett: Mansur has a good point when it comes to being ruthless. It’s a favorite attitude of a class of sports fan, but it doesn’t translate well with the players. Let’s not forget that Golden Tate believed in Detroit to boot. He came from a Super Bowl-winning Seahawks squad to the Lions. He could have gone plenty of other places, but he went here, and now the organization dumped him off to the Eagles because of a potential contract discussion.

As for what this means as a right move for the organization or not, I just want to approach this from a different side than just a matter of assets on a spreadsheet. Call it a marketing angle if you will, but this is all that was in my head today and maybe it’s a bit rhetorical. Who is impressed with this move? How does this excite people about the Lions, convince them to buy merchandise or tickets? Does anyone think that a single fan is ready to go to more Lions games after getting rid of a star wide receiver for a second-day draft pick?

If Tate wasn’t going to sign again with Detroit, you have to get what you can for him. But the optics of selling at the deadline—especially when the NFC North is as open as it is—is probably going to create a hit for the organization’s reputation in the short-term. Whatever excitement was gained by trading for Damon Harrison may have been undone here.

Jeremy Reisman: You’re absolutely right, Chris. I can already sense a large contingent of the Lions fanbase checking out, as the perception is the Lions have officially “given up” on the 2018 season. Of course, the organization has a responsibility to keep the long-term in mind while making moves, and that’s clearly what’s going on here.

The Lions are undoubtedly worse—and significantly so—this year without Tate, and I have to agree that it feels like there’s not much hope for 2018 now.

Removing all context: trading Golden Tate’s final nine games of the season for a third-round pick in return actually sounds quite reasonable. But with context, I just can’t get behind it. I was not ready to throw away this year’s chances at the NFC North crown. I was not ready to throw away Detroit’s shot to extend Tate for another two or three years. I value this team’s shot at their first division title in 25 years, plus the first round of negotiations with Tate more than a third-round pick that is far from guaranteed to blossom into anything. Tate was a known commodity, a third-round pick is a ping-pong ball in the Mega Millions.

Okay, I’m being dramatic here, but a third-round pick nets you a consistent starter around 30 percent of the time. Color me less than thrilled.

Perfett: Folks, tonight’s winning numbers are “a fifth-year senior strong safety out of New Mexico State.”

Mathews: I’m going to push back against the notion the Lions are throwing away the season by trading Tate because it seems far too drastic to claim he’s the straw that stirs the offense, especially when the Lions have so many other capable skill players. I will agree with anyone who wants to talk about how difficult it is to quantify the locker room impact a move like this will have as Tate seemed to be one of the more charismatic and enjoyable guys in the room, but from a pure talent standpoint, Detroit has other playmakers to get the ball to and can get the job done.

If anything is holding back this Lions team, it’s the defense. The back end can be in position but can’t make plays, the front-seven is still such a work in progress, and Golden Tate was going to fix none of those issues.

Hamza: Late to the party, but I’m gonna jump right in here. I think some good points were made regarding the optics of this. I also agree that objectively, this was the right move. Tate wasn’t the difference between success and failure this season, and if he’s the missing piece you need to get into the playoffs as a divisional winner, well then he’s not gonna take you far once you get there. This is a league of context, however, and that’s what makes this sting so much.

It seemed to me that Tate was evolving the last two games into what Anquan Boldin was for the Lions a couple years ago: Stafford’s trusted target on third down. Even the broadcasters took note of it. That’s gonna be a big piece missing and we’ll see how that pans out over the next few games, but there is a bright side: For the first few games of the season, Kenny Golladay filled that role. This is the same Golladay who has disappeared the last two weeks, and now look for his emergence as the third-down man.

To add to that, I also felt like there weren’t enough targets to go around in this offense. We saw what Golladay can be in the first few weeks, but as the Lions have opted for more tight end involvement and running back dump-offs in recent weeks, it felt like every week there was one untapped outlet in the receiving corps. In summation, it may take a game or two to adjust, but I think the offense will eventually be just fine. The big question now is whether “eventually” is soon enough for the Lions to cling to their hopes of winning a division title.

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