Why Tate is on the list
Slow to develop as an NFL route runner, the 2010 second-round draft pick out of Notre Dame was an afterthought in the Seattle Seahawks' offense early in his career. That changed last season when Tate led all Seahawks receivers with 42 catches, 635 yards and five touchdowns over the final 11 games (including the playoffs).
Although undersized by NFL wide receiver standards, Tate was shifted from the slot to the outside last season. After making that transition, he showed a knack for making big plays in the red zone and down the field, as evidenced by this leaping 38-yard touchdown over New York Jets cornerback Kyle Wilson.
That vertical strike wasn't a rare sight. According to Pro Football Focus, Tate's 343 yards on deep targets ranked in the top 20, ahead of Andre Johnson. Only five NFL wide receivers had a better target-to-touchdown ratio than Tate's .104 last season.
"Golden is really ready to be a terrific football player. We love what he does, and we just have to get him the ball more," Carroll said last month. "It took him a couple years to get going and now he's legit for us and we love what he brings."
Tate's potential breakout faces two primary obstacles: a run-heavy offense and the arrival of Harvin.
The Seahawks rushed a league-high 536 times last season, and their 405 passing attempts were the fewest in the NFL by a wide margin. Even if the coaching staff puts more responsibility in Russell Wilson's hands this year, Carroll insists his offensive attack will remain balanced.
With reliable hands and the ability to make defenders miss after the catch, Tate's skill set is eerily similar to that of Harvin. This shifty, tackle-breaking hurdle into the end zone versus the Minnesota Vikings looks like it was lifted from a Harvin highlight reel.
Is Tate's presence redundant now that Harvin is in the fold? The primary difference between the two is that Tate makes more plays not only down the field but also outside the hashmarks, while Harvin will remain primarily in the slot. This full-body extension near the sideline in the playoff victory over the Washington Redskins is not a play we typically see in Harvin's bag of tricks.
My first instinct in watching Tate's 2012 film was that a receiver-needy team such as the Baltimore Ravens should be looking into the viability of a trade considering the Seahawks' depth at the position with Doug Baldwin as their fourth receiver. On second thought, though, it makes little sense for the contending Seahawks to part with an integral player. Tate could be re-signed next offseason while Rice's bloated salary is jettisoned.
Update: That depth is coming in handy. Now that Harvin is reportedly out until at least Thanksgiving and Sidney Rice is undergoing knee treatment in Switzerland, Tate is perfectly positioned for his first 1,000-yard season in a contract year. Expect a true breakout performance in 2013.
Follow Chris Wesseling on Twitter @ChrisWesseling.