Golden Tate – 2014
Statistics: 16 games played, 99 receptions, 1,331 yards, 4 touchdowns, 13.4 yards/reception
Retrospective: As they did the previous offseason, the Lions prioritized acquiring another offensive weapon to alleviate the pressure on Stafford and Johnson in 2014. This time, they went after one of the best receivers on the free-agent market, landing Golden Tate to help flesh out their depth-starved pass-catching unit.
Tate was fresh off of a Super Bowl win with the Seattle Seahawks but had been something of a role player for them before a breakout season in 2013. Looking for a bigger role on offense, he agreed to terms with the Lions on a five-year deal.
Tate was a nice compliment to Johnson in the Lions’ receiving corps, manning the slot while Johnson typically patrolled the deeper part of the field and the red zone. Lauded for his sure-handedness, he fit right in along with a new coaching staff headed by Jim Caldwell.
He began his Lions tenure by contributing six receptions for 93 yards (on six targets) in a resounding Week 1 home win over the New York Giants. His biggest contribution that season though came in the middle of the year when Johnson was forced to the sideline with an ankle injury.
With Johnson out of action from for three games, Tate rose to the occasion, totaling 349 yards and a pair of scores, proving he could handle a larger slab of the offensive responsibility. He was particularly brilliant in one-point wins over the New Orleans Saints and Atlanta Falcons, using his now-iconic run-after-the-catch ability to keep the Lions in striking distance of both of those contests.
Naturally, Johnson’s return meant that Tate’s targets would be scaled back some, and he did not top eight receptions or 100 yards in a game over the final seven contests of the year. Regardless, he was one of the shrewdest acquisitions of that offseason across the league, and he would eventually become one of Matthew Stafford’s most trusted receivers over the course of his four-plus year stint in Detroit.