The New England Patriots aren’t exactly desperate, but they are in need of some serious help. Their wide receiver depth chart has been dismantled by injury, suspension and retirement. Julian Edelman will miss the first four games for using performance-enhancing substances. Eric Decker just suddenly retired from the NFL, and free agent addition Jordan Matthews suffered a hamstring injury and was promptly released with an injury settlement.
Seeking some desperate help, the Patriots media has been looking for solutions to New England’s problem and two analysts have ended their searches in Detroit. Both ESPN’s Mike Reiss and The Athletic’s Michael Lombardi think Golden Tate would make a ton of sense in a Patriots uniform.
Golden Tate in the last year of his deal--and @MikeReiss does not throw stuff off the wall--makes sense to target him, reasonable price and fits their offense to a tee.— Michael Lombardi (@mlombardiNFL) August 27, 2018
But would it make any sense from the other end of the bargaining table?
Tate is on the final year of his contract, and there have been no indications whether the Lions are interested in retaining the 30-year-old receiver. For the past four years, however, Tate has been an integral part of the team’s offense, racking up at least 90 catches in every season in Detroit and crossing the 1,000-yard threshold three out of four years.
Tate’s impact hasn’t just been statistically-based, but his skillset has allowed offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter to essentially make Tate the centerpoint of the offense. His ability to take short passes for long gains forces opposing defenses closer to the line of scrimmage without the need of an efficient running game. That allows the likes of Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones to be freed up over the top for big gains. And the Lions were one of the best downfield passing teams in the entire league last year.
Some believe the preseason emergence of Brandon Powell—an admittedly similar receiver to Tate—could make Golden expendable, especially since there’s no guarantee he’ll be around after 2018. But expecting the offense not to take a considerable step down by replacing one of the most consistent pieces of the offense (and the #YACKing) with an undrafted rookie is reckless thinking.
I understand the Lions offense is looking to change things up with an improved running game, and that could make Tate’s role a little less important in 2018. However, the offense is the strength of this team, and I haven't seen enough out of this “new and improved” Lions rushing attack to confidently believe they could still be a dominant offense without their centerpiece.
But like anything in the NFL, every player has his price. If the Patriots were to offer something extravagant, the Lions would have to seriously consider it, knowing Tate could be gone next year.
So what is Reiss suggesting as compensation?
“Playing fantasy GM, a package of defensive tackle Malcom Brown and linebacker Elandon Roberts would be something I’d float out there to see if there was a bite,” Reiss wrote.
Admittedly, this is a somewhat intriguing offer. The Lions obviously have a big weaknesses on their front seven, and adding two players already well-versed in Matt Patricia’s defense scheme (and slated starters, no less) could make a serious immediate impact for Detroit.
Brown is a younger version of Ricky Jean Francois. At 24 years old, Brown ranked fourth in run-stop percentage last season, per Pro Football Focus. Though he, too, is on the last year of his contract, Brown could be the long-term solution where Francois is the stop-gap.
Roberts is an up-and-coming outside linebacker who saw his first real starting action last season. The 2016 sixth-round pick saw mixed reviews as a starter. PFF graded him poorly as a liability in both in run defense (49.2 grade) and coverage (51.1). However, the Patriots were confident enough in him to trade away Pro Bowler Jamie Collins, meaning that Matt Patricia obviously sees something in him.
And it may be very tempting for Patricia to accept an offer like this. After all, he’s a defensively-minded guy, and he’d be getting two commodities he’s more than familiar with.
But while these are two young players the Lions would be adding, there’s no guarantee it would make them better long-term. If Brown has a strong 2018 season, he’ll be asking for a huge pay raise next offseason, much like Tate. And Roberts is still in “unknown commodity” territory. He could regress just as easily as he could progress.
And if you look at the formula that’s made the Patriots such a successful franchise over the past two decades, it starts with Tom Brady and the offense. That team has ranked among the top four scoring offenses in every single season dating back to 2009.
Giving away Golden Tate—even for two high-ceiling defensive players—makes the Lions a worse team in the short term, and there’s no guarantee they’ll be any better in the long term. Thanks, but no thanks, Mike Reiss.
Would you trade Golden Tate for DT Malcom Brown and LB Elandon Roberts?
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