Boling: In today’s NFL, youth means little when you’re expensive

dave.boling@thenewstribune.comMarch 13, 2014 

Seattle Seahawks general manager Charles Darwin made some natural selections when he released Chris Clemons and Red Bryant.

They were a pair of defensive linemen who were aging and expensive — a lethal combination in the salary cap era of the National Football League whenever free agency rolls around.

But Wednesday’s loss of wide receiver Golden Tate to the Detroit Lions was a different matter.

And Seattle’s actual GM, John Schneider, had to weigh values other than potential career longevity and diminishing talents.

Tate was the team’s leading receiver, and his numbers have steadily risen. He caught 15 touchdown passes as a Seahawk and made countless clutch third-down receptions. Yet he’s still only 25.

By not arriving at a preemptive extension of Tate before he tested the free-agency market, the Seahawks appeared to have, in their minds, determined a value for him that the Lions exceeded.

Tate reportedly agreed to a five-year deal with $13.25 million guaranteed.

Salary caps force tough decisions, especially for a Seahawks front office facing upcoming negotiations with major big-ticket talents.

Tate was unquestionably valuable to the Seahawks as a playmaker and a breakaway punt-return threat. He has been sure-handed, with a knack for yards after the catch.

He has been durable, too.

But, in part because the Seahawks were a run-oriented offense, Tate ranked 46th in the NFL in catches (64).

By joining the Lions (No. 3 in passing yards last season), he’s sure to get more targets. Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford passed 634 times — or 1½ times more than Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson (407).

And defenses will be prone to single-cover Tate as they focus on the elite Calvin Johnson on the other side.

From the standpoint of personal statistics, the move should be good for Tate. The competitiveness of his team, though, could be another issue.

So, what happens to Seattle’s receivers corps now?

Wednesday, they added a second free agent in Taylor Price, who joins previously signed Chris Matthews of the Canadian Football League. Neither will have Tate’s impact.

It leaves the Hawks with two other former undrafted wide receivers, Doug Baldwin and former Lakes High School/University of Washington standout Jermaine Kearse, who have been productive beyond any reasonable expectations.

And there is Percy Harvin, the pricey addition who came up with one regular-season catch in 2013 as he battled injury issues.

If Harvin plays 16 games, the impact of Tate’s departure should be minimal.

Receiver could be one of the positions Schneider targets in the draft this spring, but history there doesn’t inspire great confidence.

Tate is one of only three wide receivers Schneider has drafted; the other two — fourth-rounders Kris Durham and Chris Harper — were cut.

Always remember that this is a team that emphasizes running the ball and defense.

The defensive line was so critical to the Seahawks’ success. Yes, the secondary got so many headlines, but run-stopping power of the big guys up front, and then the quarterback pressure by the front on passing downs, contributed greatly.

How much of that will be sacrificed with the veteran departures?

Aside from retaining Michael Bennett on Monday and Tony McDaniel on Wednesday — McDaniel had a sneaky-good season with 53 tackles — the Hawks enjoy promising depth by young guys on the defensive line that could mitigate the Bryant/Clemons losses.

While out last season with a knee injury, Bryant’s likely replacement, Greg Scruggs, is supposed to have bulked up to well over 300 pounds.

Scruggs, considered a seventh-round steal in the 2012 draft, picked up a couple of sacks in limited play as a rookie, showing a knack for interior rushing.

Scruggs is 23. And cheap. So is promising backup Jordan Hill.

Young and cheap ... a key combination this time of year.

Yes, Tate is young. But Detroit proved he wouldn’t be cheap.

Dave Boling: 253-597-8440
dave.boling@thenewstribune.com
@DaveBoling

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