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The Detroit Lions are a win-tomorrow team that can still win today

Where do the Lions stand after the Golden Tate trade?

NFL: Detroit Lions at Oakland Raiders Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Way back in August of 2000, I was just a innocent freshmen in high school that still played with action figures in my room. Who needs friends and a girlfriend when I can put on my own Wrestlemania in the privacy of my room while I listen to Ludacris? Not to mention, if a girl talked to me in 2000, I would stutter, turn red and nearly pass out.

Anyways, I had no idea the heartache I was about to feel. The Detroit Pistons had decided to trade Grant Hill to the Orlando Magic. You have to understand, throughout my childhood, my bedroom was covered with posters and plaques that featured Grant. I had multiple jerseys and tons of trading cards featuring him. We had a superstar on our basketball team. It was great.

When he left, it felt like I had lost a part of my childhood and was forced to understand that sports is a business that often throws loyalty and fan appreciation by the wayside.

This is how I felt again on Tuesday when the Lions traded Golden Tate to the Philadelphia Eagles. It feels like we’ve been dumped or just got fired. It feels like we’ve lost a part for the city that felt like a perfect fit for us.

Because I felt devastated, I skipped out on writing my weekly Wednesday column. I just felt like whatever I wrote on Tuesday night would have been emotionally charged and would have read like a spiteful ex-boyfriend.

This was probably the best thing I could have done because it gave me time to really think about this trade, this franchise and the direction that everything appears to be going in.

What I come away with is not what the status quo has been so far. I don’t think the Lions are giving up on the season. Frankly, I don’t think there are a lot of teams in sports that decide to call it quits at any point. Even the teams that are eliminated from playoff contention are often trying to play spoiler or just put something together for the next season’s morale.

With that said, the other narrative that’s floating around—the Lions being all-in on 2019—is one that I can completely get behind, and Lions fans should to. I know nobody wants to hear it, but Rome wasn’t built in a day. This probably needed to happen.

The Lions probably weren't going to be able to keep Tate. It just didn’t look like something that was in the cards. Really ask yourself why Tate hadn’t been extended, when the Lions had the money to make that move.

Should they have extended him, though? The Athletic’s Chris Burke went out and figured out what Tate will likely get when he hits free agency this offseason. The number is pretty big.

According to Spotrac, the Lions will have just over $41 million to spend in the offseason. They could afford that if they wanted to, but offense isn’t going to be their bag this summer. And as much as I love Tate, and I really do, that’s a lot for a receiver that’ll be turning 31 soon. Someone will pay it, and it’ll probably be another NFC North team, because obviously.

That cap number is only going to get bigger too. The cap will rise as it does every year and the Lions will be facing more difficult personnel decisions. They’re going to be big players in free agency on the defensive side of the ball. Don’t be surprised to see them aggressively go after guys like DeMarcus Lawrence or Tyrann Mathieu to fix this defense.

Add all that defensive help that they’ll scoop up in the draft and free agency to an offense that’s already performing pretty dang well, and you have what could potentially be a really scary team. This is why the Tate trade matters. It opens up that high draft pick and it saves the team money.

But what about 2018? Are the Lions really packing it up in Week 9 when they’re just one game back from leading the division? I don’t think so. This team is still able to compete. They still have an improving defense that just grabbed an elite level defensive tackle. They’re still going to allow a lot of points, but they’re improving.

The Lions also still have a great offense full of weapons. Marvin Jones Jr. and Kenny Golladay still play for this team. And in theory, Theo Riddick can play that Golden Tate role for the Lions when he’s healthy. They also have a rookie running back that just one week ago placed himself in the Offensive Rookie of the Year discussion with a huge game against Miami. Don’t forget that he played a significant role in the passing game against Seattle, too. Lastly, that offensive line is still performing out there.

Golden will be hard to replace. There’s absolutely no doubt about that. He was the Lions’ best receiver this season. He’s been a consistent force in this offense since 2014, but it’s not impossible. It might actually change the Lions offense for the better. At least one analyst thinks things could happen that way.

It should be interesting to see if the Lions do this sort of thing starting this weekend against the Vikings. They have a duo of receivers that’s more than capable of doing damage to opposing defenses. There’s a million questions behind those two. TJ Jones will obviously find himself getting a real chance to shine after being the low man on to the totem pole since the day he came to Detroit. But then what? Brandon Powell? Andy Jones? The Lions really need to keep everyone healthy.

Even the Lions feel the same way. We were there on Wednesday and the team seems like they’re not planning to give up at all. Matt Patricia is certain that this team is no slouch. Here’s what he had to say.

“We have a lot of guys that are really good on this team that can produce and, honestly, we have confidence in everybody that’s on this team right now, that everyone can go out and do their job. And I think we’ve seen through the course of multiple different examples of years in the NFL where these things happen and people move on and they keep going and they keep winning. Is it difficult to win in this league? 100 percent it is, every single week is hard. So we’re just going to have to work harder.”

Detroit is about to enter the abyss of the season starting this week. The next five games are going to be a real test. They have the Vikings on Sunday, the Bears twice, the Panthers and the undefeated Rams. At least three of those games are at home.

We’re going to find out really quick as fans if it’s time to start looking at mock drafts or if this team is way better than we thought. I predicted this team to be a playoff team this year, and I still stand by that even after the Tate trade.

At this point, the universe just won’t let the Lions fail. There are not a lot of 3-4 teams out there that are a win and three rival losses away from swinging all the way up to first place. The NFL schedule will continue to help them too. The Vikings still have to play the Bears, Packers, Patriots and Seahawks. The Packers still have to play the Patriots, Seahawks, Vikings, Bears and Falcons. Lastly, the Bears still play the Lions twice, the Vikings twice, the Packers and the Rams.

Lions fans are looking at their schedule worried, but I would bet the rest of the division is doing the same, too. Right now, this division looks like it’s gone from the best in football to the NFC South circa 2014 when the 7-8-1 Panthers won the division crown and went to the playoffs.

All I’m saying is that the Lions may be expertly building for tomorrow, but they’re still able to win today. And this thing is far from over.

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