Golden Tate trade sends wrong signal to Detroit Lions players

Quandre Diggs summed it up about right Tuesday when he tweeted the three letters that everyone knows what they mean – “Wtf!”

The Detroit Lions traded leading receiver Golden Tate to the Philadelphia Eagles two hours before the NFL trade deadline for the very fair price of a 2019 third-round draft pick.

Tate is 30 years old and on an expiring contract, a free-agent-to-be who was clear that he wanted market value on his next deal, something the cap-conscious Lions were wise to avoid.

But my problem — and probably Diggs’ problem and the problem of many others reacting to the news — is what Tuesday’s move means to a team that, no matter what you think of their chances, is still in the thick of a crowded NFC North race.

The Lions are 3-4 and in last place in the division, but just a game out of first place with no dominant team up top. The Chicago Bears are good, the Minnesota Vikings are better, and the Green Bay Packers have the best player on the planet in Aaron Rodgers.

But the Lions, at least until Tuesday, still had a fighting chance to win their first division title in 25 years.

Let’s be clear: Tate was not an indispensable player on this team, and to that end, Tuesday’s trade is not a deathblow to an offense that up to this point has been one of the most balanced in the NFL.

They still have Marvin Jones and Kenny Golladay at receiver, they still have Kerryon Johnson at running back, and they’re high on undrafted rookie Brandon Powell as a potential Tate fill-in.

But Tate is a very good player who was a key part of a Lions team that had won three of its last five games, and his departure as one of Matthew Stafford’s favorite targets leaves a void that will be tough to fill.

Beyond the football reasons – you could make the case that Tate is better as an outside receiver, and he was stuck playing in the slot in Detroit – the Lions sent the wrong message to their locker room by trading Tate less than a week after they made a big move to acquire Damon Harrison from the New York Giants.

Harrison had an immediate impact in his first game last week, making seven tackles, two for loss, and one sack, though the Lions still couldn't stop the run.

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