The Doug Baldwin vs. Golden Tate Argument

If you’ll allow me to put words into your mouths, I think I can speak for everyone when I say:  We all want both Golden Tate AND Doug Baldwin back in the fold long term.  If we had it our way, as Seahawks fans, these two guys would retire as career Seahawks, with multiple titles to reflect upon.

But, the way you hear people talk about it, the Seahawks are destined to only keep one.  With the salary cap and all that nonsense, you’ve got to make difficult choices.  Every player in the NFL wants to be paid what he’s worth (or, rather, what he THINKS he’s worth).  Yet, there’s only so much money to go around for one team.  Can the Seahawks afford to give Golden Tate the long-term deal he deserves, while somehow locking up Doug Baldwin, while also mainlining the gargantuan Percy Harvin cap figure, while extending guys like Earl Thomas and Richard Sherman and Russell Wilson and so on?

The short answer is:  probably not.  The Percy Harvin deal REALLY screwed the damn pooch in this whole thing.  We all figured that Percy Harvin would be a guy to put this offense over the top.  Little did we know, when we were making this deal, that we had the talent all along.

This team can win with Tate, Baldwin, and Kearse.  How do I know that?  Because they just fucking did it.  The Seahawks just went 16-3 and were only 3-0 when Harvin made an appearance.  I’d say 13-3 (including a victory over the 49ers in the NFC Championship Game REAL Super Bowl) is pretty damn good.

The question is:  will Percy Harvin make us better?  Only time will tell.  If he’s healthy, then you have to say, “Of course he makes us better!”  But, if he keeps getting knocked out of games and misses huge chunks of seasons, while at the same time costing us someone like Doug Baldwin, who had to get his money elsewhere because the Seahawks couldn’t afford to pay everyone, then I’d say Percy Harvin might actively make us worse.

The bottom line is:  Percy Harvin isn’t going anywhere.  At the very least, not until AFTER the 2014 season.  Now, I’m not sitting here counting down the days, trying to push the guy out the door, but it IS interesting how his contract shakes out.  If the Seahawks really wanted out, they could cut him after next season and save $5.7 million (not to mention all the dozens of millions of dollars we’d save by not paying his base salaries for the subsequent four seasons).  So, if Percy Harvin spends most of 2014 on the shelf, and we feel he can’t be relied upon to carry the load going forward, we can jettison him and try to salvage what we have.

And what we have is Doug Baldwin.  Right now, he’s a restricted free agent.  Word on the street is, the Seahawks are going to give him a 2nd round tender, which means he’s worth a little over $2 million.  If someone signs him away from us, then they owe us a 2nd round draft pick.  Personally, if I was some other team in desperate need of a quality receiver, I’d sacrifice that 2nd round pick in a heartbeat and make Doug Baldwin an offer he can’t refuse.  You’re telling me right now, Indianapolis couldn’t use a receiver like Doug Baldwin to take some of the pressure off of T.Y. Hilton?  That wouldn’t be worth a 2nd rounder to them?

If you ask me, I say the Seahawks should put a first round tender on him, because the only way it’s worth losing Baldwin is if we get a first rounder out of the deal.  And, even then, I’m not so sure …

The point is, the Seahawks don’t necessarily HAVE to sign Baldwin long-term now.  But, they DO have to sign Tate now, if they want to keep him, because he’s an unrestricted free agent, and if we don’t pay him, someone else will.

So, that’s where we stand.  Everyone is so damned convinced that the Seahawks will give Tate a big ol’ extension and wait and see with Baldwin.  You’ve even got some people out there saying that the Seahawks might be better off TRADING Baldwin and getting something for him now!  The argument being:  we won’t be able to pay him long-term money anyway, so we might as well get something before he walks at the end of the 2014 season.

Shit man, that’s CRAZY talk!  Because if Harvin really is as injury prone as we all fear, the Seahawks are in an excellent position to cut him after 2014 and re-sign Baldwin to a more modestly-sized deal and use whatever extra money we’d have left over to sign Russell Wilson or somebody else.

But, okay, let’s go the other way.  Let’s say Harvin is a rock from this day forward.  Let’s say he becomes the star of the offense and totally blows everyone away in 2014.  Maybe he even garners some MVP attention for a while, who knows?  At that point, you’ve got a problem.  Because you’re not cutting a guy like Harvin who is a game-changing talent.  Which means you really DO need to make a tough choice on Baldwin.  And, if you’ve already got Tate locked up with Harvin, you’re most likely not going to want to throw any more huge contracts into the wide receiver position.

This leads right into the main argument of this post, 900+ words in:  I think the Seahawks would be better off signing Doug Baldwin long term right now and letting Golden Tate walk.

I’ve read the arguments for signing Golden Tate and I’m just not buying them.  Not if it comes at the expense of Doug Baldwin.  One of the feathers in Tate’s cap is his ability to return punts.  Yeah, I’ll admit, it’s nice having him back there.  I like that he’s a risk-taker.  I like that he’s fearless.  He’s not reckless so much as he’s smart when taking his chances (like catching the ball inside the 10 yard line with a 10-yard cushion between him and the nearest defender), because more often than not it’s those chances that end up being modest to awesome gains.  But, what happens the next time Golden Tate gets injured on a punt return?  What happens if he doesn’t fair catch the ball and gets slammed into the turf, woozy with concussion?  What happens if someone falls on his leg and he sprains an ankle?

You know what happens?  That’s the end of Golden Tate:  Punt Returner.  The Seahawks aren’t going to pour gallons upon gallons of money into someone like Golden Tate – who is ostensibly too important on the offense – just to see him get injured returning punts.

Besides, come on, how hard is it to find a decent punt returner?  If you want my two cents:  just give me a guy who won’t fumble.  You know who was an AMAZING punt returner for us?  Bobby Engram.  Granted, he almost NEVER returned a punt, but he caught every fucking one of them and didn’t cost our offense any possessions.  Give me THAT.  Give me a fair-catching machine and I’ll take it.

Now, the argument for Golden Tate on offense is a little more complex.  He’s great at going up and catching the ball at its highest point.  He’s freakishly athletic.  He’s our best big-play threat.  And, he’s adept at breaking off of his route when Russell Wilson starts to scramble.  That last trait might not be so important for most quarterbacks, but it’s essential when you’re talking about Russell Wilson.

My thing is:  I believe Doug Baldwin does all of that for us just as effectively as Golden Tate.  PLUS, Baldwin has probably the best hands on the team.  He’s one of the smartest players on the team.  He’s probably our best receiver at getting himself open – whether it’s creating separation in man-to-man, or finding a hole in the zone for a first down.  Who do you trust when it’s 3rd & 8 late in the game and you need a first down to win it?  Doug Baldwin.  Who do you trust to catch the ball with two feet in bounds when Wilson is running for his life and heaving up what appears to be a desperation hail mary?  Doug Baldwin.

And, to be honest, if you’ll forgive me for focusing too intently on the most recently-played games, who had the better playoff run?

Golden Tate caught 8 balls for 61 yards and 0 TDs in our three playoff games.
Doug Baldwin caught 13 for 202 and 1 Super Bowl TD.

I mean, let’s face it, Tate was shut down in the playoffs.  Aside from a punt return here and there, did you really ever see him make an impact?  Great players, worthy of big contracts, don’t just disappear when the games matter most.  Great players step up.  Also, great players are relied upon by their quarterbacks when there’s no tomorrow.  In the playoffs, you’re not fucking around.  You go with what works.  What works, for this team, is Doug Baldwin carving up defenses.

Now, people will tell you that Doug Baldwin is “just a slot receiver”.  First of all, no he’s not.  He’s capable of playing on the outside if need be.  He can run all the routes you need to run and he’ll succeed regardless.  Secondly, is Wes Welker “just a slot receiver”?  Why are you poo-pooing the slot receiver position?  People say that slot receivers are a dime a dozen, and that may be true.  But, slot receivers like Doug Baldwin are pretty fucking rare.

Golden Tate has a special talent.  But, does he really do all that much that Percy Harvin doesn’t already do?  The Seahawks did a great job of building Tate up from a second round draft pick into a #1 receiver for the Seahawks.  What’s to say we don’t do that again with someone else?

Again, if it’s up to me, I’d keep all of our guys.  But, that’s not the way it works in reality.  In reality, sometimes you’ve got to lose someone great to keep someone even better.  I would hate to think of what would have become of the 2013 Seahawks with Harvin missing most of the year, while at the same time not having Doug Baldwin around.  Defenses would have clamped down on Tate and we would’ve been left with Kearse and Lockette doing all the work.  I like Kearse enough, but I’m not trusting him to make all the insane 3rd down catches Doug Baldwin made on a game-by-game basis.

In 2014 and beyond, this team needs Baldwin much more than it needs Tate.  Unless and until they’re able to hit on a tall receiver in the draft, our offense is going to move on the legs of our running game, on the quick passes to Percy Harvin, and on the clutch 3rd down grabs by Doug Baldwin.  The bulk of Seahawks fans and bloggers might not agree with me, but really try to picture life without Doug Baldwin.  It’s scary.

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