Trading Odell Beckham Jr. to the Cleveland Browns was, and still is, a difficult move for many followers of the New York Giants to understand. The way GM Dave Gettleman replaced him, signing a 31-year-old wide receiver coming off his worst season since 2013 to a four-year, $37.5 million contract with $22.5 million guaranteed, only confused some even more.
Let’s focus on Golden Tate as we continue our player-by-player profiles of the 90-man roster the Giants will bring to training camp in just a few days.
Position: Wide receiver
How he got here
Tate has 611 receptions in a nine-year career with the Seattle Seahawks, Detroit Lions and Philadelphia Eagles. Since becoming a full-time starter with Seattle in 2012 Tate has averaged 79.3 catches per season. He had 90 or more catches in all four full seasons he played in Detroit from 2014-2017. He caught 44 passes in seven games with Detroit last season, a pace that would have led him to a career-best 100.6 catches, before the Lions traded him to the Eagles for a 2019 third-round pick.
Tate and the Eagles struggled to acclimate to each other as he caught only 30 passes, averaging only 9.3 yards per catch and scoring only one regular-season touchdown.
Jeremy Reisman of SB Nation’s Detroit Lions website, Pride of Detroit, recently told the ‘Valentine’s Views’ podcast that he did not see any decline in Tate’s play while he was in Detroit last season.
“I honestly haven’t seen Golden Tate take a step back yet,” Reisman said.
Pro Football Focus credited Tate with forcing more missed tackles than any wide receiver from 2013-2017. Since 2013 Tate has consistently been among the top wide receivers in yards after catch, and led the league in that category in 2014 and 2017, and was No. 2 in 2016. Giants.com reported that Tate’s 4,048 receiving yards after the catch is the most of any receiver since Tate entered the NFL in 2010.
“He’s so shifty, he’s so smart with how to use his blocks, how to slip between defenders and his short distance speed is still there,” Reisman said.
“Anything that can get him the ball within the first five yards from scrimmage he’s capable of taking it much, much longer than that.”
Gettleman always bristles at the use of the word “rebuilding” when he is asked about the team’s direction. He said during his second offseason as general manager that the Giants, with one playoff appearance in seven seasons, are “building.”
“We’re building. The object of this is to win as many games as possible every year. We’re building,” he said in March. “We were 3-13 when I took over. We were 5-11 last year -- 12 of those games were by a touchdown or less. We’re building. I don’t understand why that’s a question. Really and truly, you can win while you’re building.”
The long-term wisdom of signing Tate might be questioned, though his contract is fairly team friendly. The Giants can get out of it after two seasons with only a $2.5 million cap hit by designating Tate a post-June 1 cut in 2021, should that be something they want to do.
Tate, though, should help the Giants over the next two seasons.
The former Notre Dame star shrugged off the idea that there is pressure on him to replace Beckham’s production.
“Odell is a tremendous talent. He’s a buddy of mine. I enjoy watching him. I love his game. He’s just a complete receiver. He can run, he can run routes, he can catch, great personality, very likable guy,” Tate said. “As far as me, I’m just coming in and doing my job. I’m just coming in and putting my head down and working and do the best I can. That’s one thing that I try not to do is compare myself to really anyone. I’m kind of my own player, my own unique player. I’m just going to do my job and not put too much pressure on anyone around me, or myself.”
He also shrugged off the idea that his lack of production in Philly might be due to slippage in his play, suggesting that the midseason move to a new team was a difficult transition.
“I’m going into my 10th season. I’m just going to be who I am. I have a lot of confidence in my ability and what I can bring to a team,” Tate said. “I think I’m in a better situation here, because I have an entire offseason to learn the offense. I’m not hitting the ground running in the middle of the week having to prepare to play Sunday. It’s kind of a different scenario this time around.”
There has also been some concern that Tate and Sterling Shepard, who have both enjoyed most of their success from the slot, could be too similar as players. Tate doesn’t seem worried about that.
“I really like Sterling’s game. That guy, he’s a baller. He’s a playmaker, he makes plays, and I can do the same,” he said. “I think what makes both of us unique is that we can both play anywhere around the field. My first two to three years in Detroit, and most of my career in Seattle, I was an outside guy. I feel like I can run the comebacks, the hooks and any route on the route tree just fine. I feel the same way about him and a couple of other guys in the room.
“I’m looking to find a way to complement him and I hope he finds a way to complement me in this offense. We just kind of come together and make plays all over the place. I’m expecting Eli to spread the ball around to a bunch of guys and a bunch of guys make plays.”
Before the Giants drafted Daniel Jones with the No. 6 overall pick, Matt Williamson wrote that the acquisition of Tate was part of the Giants’ creation of a “comfortable nest” for a young quarterback.
“Wouldn’t such a nest be better off with one of the NFL’s truly elite wide receivers? Possibly. But it also might be better off without such a huge personality involved in the young quarterback’s maturation process. It also conceivably could be better off without that huge accompanying contract or the need to force-feed one singular pass catcher. Who is to say for sure if having Beckham, his persona and his contract in the fold would be better for the Giants’ next franchise quarterback or if it would be better to have him out of the building during this maturation process in exchange for valuable draft and salary cap equity.
“But what can’t be argued is that the ability to distribute the ball to Saquon Barkley, Evan Engram, the recently extended Sterling Shepard and Golden Tate is a very friendly situation for a highly-touted quarterback just entering the league. All four of those weapons are very quarterback-friendly stylistically, often with quick-hitting routes. Also, the ability to turn around and put the football in Barkley’s belly is also something all young (and old) NFL signal callers will be envious of. It takes a village to raise a quarterback, folks.”
In a separate piece, Williamson discussed how the Giants’ offense can flourish without a big-bodied wide receiver on the outside.
“Contested catch receivers and downfield threats are great and should always have a place in this league. But NFL offensive scheme designers are very adeptly catering passing games to what they are given from the college ranks. What that is are suspect pass protectors and young quarterbacks with a massive amount of college spread principles instilled in them when entering the league.
“NFL offenses need easier throws with quick reads. The ball needs to come out quick, on time and with accuracy. After the catch skills might be more important than the ability to outmuscle a cornerback for the football in the air nowadays.”
This type of offense may also suit Eli Manning in his age 38 season. While Manning was more of a big-play, get the ball down the field quarterback early in his career with Kevin Gilbride calling plays, at 38 that probably isn’t the case now. A passing attach that begins with quick throws where Manning can use his 15 years of experience to identify mismatches and get the ball out and into the hands of play-makers seems a smart way to go.
Manning’s play, perhaps because of a combination of age, offensive line issues and a different philosophy from coaches Ben McAdoo and Pat Shurmur, has been trending that way in recent seasons.
Most passes thrown at/behind line of scrimmage (last 3 years, reg season):— Steve Palazzolo (@PFF_Steve) July 12, 2019
1. Ben Roethlisberger 379
2. Matthew Stafford 355
3. Eli Manning 323
4. Derek Carr 313
5. Drew Brees 304
6. Alex Smith 293
7. Philip Rivers 284
8. Aaron Rodgers 281
9. Case Keenum 279
10. Joe Flacco 274
While neither he nor Shepard will demand the constant double teams that Beckham did, Tate should fit nicely into what the Giants will need to do with their passing attack over the next couple of seasons, whether balls are being thrown by Manning or Jones.