The Detroit Lions opted to part ways with their top receiver last season. Can a veteran free agent come in this year and replace that sky-high production?
When the Detroit Lions inked free agent wide receiver Golden Tate to a five-year, $31 million deal in 2014, they believed they were securing a solid second option to All-Pro wideout Calvin Johnson. What they in fact got was someone who would lead the team in receptions for four straight seasons.
Until last year, Tate had posted at least 90 catches in each of his first four seasons in Detroit. He even earned his first and only Pro Bowl nomination in 2014 after recording a career-high 99 catches for 1,331 yards and four touchdowns. And that was with Megatron on the roster!
Seven games into 2018, the 30-year old Tate was promptly traded to the Philadelphia Eagles in exchange for a 2019 third round selection. During this April’s draft, that pick was sent to the Minnesota Vikings so the Lions could trade up to select Boston College safety Will Harris.
Tate would go on to disappoint in Philly, posting just 30 receptions for 278 and a single score in eight regular season games for the Eagles. He did record a total of seven catches for 64 yards and a touchdown in Philadelphia’s two playoff contests. But it wasn’t enough to keep him with the Eagles as the free agent signed a new four-year, $37.5 million this offseason with the New York Giants.
Without Tate in the lineup, the Lions would lose six of their final nine regular season games, ending the year with a 6-10 record, worst in the NFC North. To replace him in the slot, Lions’ general manager Bob Quinn and second-year head coach Matt Patricia turned to a familiar face.
That player was former New England Patriots wide receiver Danny Amendola, who signed a one-year, $4.5 million contract with Detroit as a free agent this offseason. The 33-year old slot receiver spent five years with the Patriots (2013-2017), winning two Super Bowls during that span.
Last season, Amendola led the Miami Dolphins in receiving posting a stat-line of 59 catches for 575 yards and a score. In Detroit, the veteran wideout is expected to play a similar role to that of Tate for 10-year quarterback Matthew Stafford. Here’s what DetroitLions.com’s Tim Twentyman wrote about the team’s new slot receiver following the completion of minicamp.
"“It’s fun to watch veteran wide receiver Danny Amendola practice. Everything is 110 percent with him. He’s been an early favorite target for quarterback Matthew Stafford, and the two seem to be building a pretty good rapport. I’ve even spotted them doing one-on-one work together during an individual period.”"
Twentyman went on to point out that he believes Amendola is a perfectionist, holding himself to a high standard, even calling him Mr. Hustle.
Yet, it is unlikely that Detroit Lions’ fans will see the same kind of production from Danny Amendola as they did with Golden Tate. The fact is Amendola hasn’t posted more than 65 catches in a single season since 2010. But he does appear to be building a solid rapport with Matthew Stafford. If so, there’s a good chance Amendola becomes the veteran passers’ new go-to receiver. And that could result in some big numbers from the veteran receiver.