Leading up to the start of free agency, Sports Talk Philly and Eagledelphia will be taking a look at the players on the Eagles roster who are scheduled to become free agents this offseason and how the team should look to handle each.
In this edition, we will be covering wide receiver Golden Tate.
Drafted by the Seattle Seahawks in the second-round of the 2010 NFL draft, Tate became an impact player almost immediately and was able to help the franchise win the Super Bowl in 2013. Following the 2013 season, Tate became a free agent and signed with the Detroit Lions, publicly mocking the offer that the Seahawks gave him.
Tate then spent four and a half seasons with the Lions. Over his four complete seasons with the club, he lead the league in yards after the catch. He was also one of two wide receivers with 90 or more receptions in each of those last four seasons, the other being Antonio Brown. It was with the Lions that Tate earned his only Pro Bowl selection (2014) and was named to the NFL’s Top 100 list as the 85th best player the following offseason.
The Eagles traded a third-round pick for Tate in the middle of the 2018 season, but he received limited playing time. In that limited regular season time, he managed just 30 catches for a minor 278 yards. He also had quite a few drops and fumbled the ball twice. He proved he was worth the pick that the Eagles moved for him in the wild card round of the playoffs as he made five receptions for 46 yards, including both a massive 28-yard grab where he knowingly took a massive hit and the touchdown reception that put the Birds ahead for good.
The only known receivers set to return to the Eagles are Alshon Jeffery and Nelson Agholor. Beyond that, the team has Mack Hollins, Shelton Gibson, Marken Michel, Johnny Holton, Braxton Miller, Dorren Miller and Carlton Agudosi.
Out of all of those players, I think Jeffery is the only sure thing to make the team with Agholor closest behind him. The Eagles have Agholor on his fifth-year option from his rookie contract and he carries a $9 million cap hit. The team will look to sign Agholor to a new deal and get him under contract for an extended period of time with a lower cap hit. Mack Hollins has a shot at making the roster, but is nowhere near a lock after missing the entire 2018 season with a mysterious injury. Shelton Gibson spent the entirety of 2018 on the active roster and managed only one reception the entire season. He is likely gone unless he shows significant improvement.
Beyond that, the rest of the group are not likely to make the roster, but Braxton Miller and Marken Michel have experience in the NFL and CFL respectively. That previous performance with a strong camp could win either of the pair a spot on the active roster.
Spotrac.com projects Tate will sign a three-year, $30.6 million contract this offseason. At a $10.2 million annual salary, that would net the Eagles a third-round compensatory pick should he sign elsewhere (based off of the 2018 offseason numbers. The Eagles could benefit from his departure, essentially delaying the pick they traded for him by one year.
Market value may not matter to Tate, however. Meeting with the press following the Eagles loss to the Saints in the divisional round, Tate told members of the media that he is focused on winning. He wants to go to a team where he can win rather than whoever pays him the most – he took the biggest payday the first time he reached free agency.
If that didn’t leave a door open for his return, he even replied to a fan on Twitter to express his interest in returning to the team.
Hell ya— Golden Tate (@ShowtimeTate) January 20, 2019
As of right now, the Eagles have $24 million of salary cap tied up with just Agholor and Jeffery next season. That’s near 11% of the cap for two receivers. The Eagles cannot give Tate a massive contract, but an Agholor extension would create some more room. The Eagles don’t necessarily want to keep both Agholor and Tate as both are best suited as slot receivers, but if an Agholor extension can’t be done, perhaps trading Agholor and signing Tate in his place is a viable option.
I would not put it past Howie Roseman to trade Nelson Agholor for some nice draft picks and re-sign Tate to take his place. The move does seem unlikely, however, and the better long-term move would be to sign the younger Agholor to an extension. Tate is certainly a good receiver, but the fact that he and Agholor cannot be properly used at the same time and the fact that the Eagles have some much cap space already tied up at the position with only two solid options means that they might not have room on the roster or in the cap for him unless his deal was insanely below market value. Considering Tate publicly blasted the Seahawks for expecting him to take a team-friendly deal, that seems extremely unlikely.
Decision: Move On