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Tate, Seahawks negotiations and the Percy precedent

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The $67 million contract Seattle gave to receiver Percy Harvin last offseason is the largest in franchise history. (AP)

By Danny O'Neil

Golden Tate never mentioned Percy Harvin by name.

Let's make that clear. But it wasn't hard to determine who Tate was referring to as he expressed his unhappiness over the size of Seattle's contract offer during an interview with 710 ESPN Seattle's "Bob and Groz."

"The organization is offering guys from other places two times what they even – almost three times what they offered me," Tate said Tuesday. "And I was like, 'Are you serious?' "

Hmmm, who could that be considering Harvin signed a six-year, $67 million contract after being acquired from Minnesota a year ago? Turns out the shadow cast by that deal might be the most significant detail to emerge from this week's discussion of Tate's departure since the rest of that story really isn't all that complicated.

It isn't surprising that a team like Detroit would make an offer like it did to Tate. The Lions have cast their lot with quarterback Matthew Stafford, they have the game's top wide receiver in Calvin Johnson and Tate provides a playmaking counterpunch that will make opponents pay for paying too much attention.

And it's not shocking that the Seahawks would decide they couldn't offer as much to Tate in this salary-capped league. After all, Seattle will have to sign its All-Pro safety, Earl Thomas, within the next 12 months. And its All-Pro cornerback, Richard Sherman. And quarterback Russell Wilson is now halfway through his rookie deal.

But when Tate mentioned a contract Seattle offered a player from outside the team on his way to Detroit, he pointed to something that could constitute the elephant in the room for future negotiations, too.

The deal Seattle signed Harvin to a year ago is going to make it more difficult for the Seahawks to sell their players on re-signing for less than other teams offer. Not impossible, but more difficult.

Because if Seattle was like the Steelers and the Packers (usually), two franchises known for being composed predominantly of players they drafted, then it would be easier to sell players on the idea of taking a little less so everyone could stick together.

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Golden Tate referenced Percy Harvin's deal while bemoaning the "laughable" offer he received from the Seahawks. (AP)
After all, look at all the talent Seattle has drafted on both sides of the ball. It's not just Wilson, Thomas and Sherman. It's strong safety Kam Chancellor. And linebackers Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright. A cornerback like Byron Maxwell and yes, a receiver like Tate.

And it's natural for fans to wonder whether part of Seattle's sales pitch in negotiating players to re-sign is that everyone has to take a little less than they want if the Seahawks are going to retain this core of players it has first drafted, then developed.

But in that case, how does Seattle explain Harvin's deal? He didn't take less to come to the Seahawks. He got a contract that was a notch below the two industry leaders at his position, Arizona's Larry Fitzgerald and Tate's new teammate Johnson, but it's right at the top of the next tier.

Ultimately, the Seahawks valued Harvin more than they did Tate. A lot more. Only time will tell over the next few years whether Seattle's calibration between the two was correct, but the fact that Tate referenced Harvin upon his exit demonstrates that Harvin's contract was a benchmark he looked to, not believing he deserved that same deal but wondering why the offer the Seahawks gave him was so small in comparison.

The Seahawks acquired Harvin in 2013 because they believed he was among the 10 or so most explosive offensive players in the league, quarterbacks excluded. The contract Seattle signed him to reflected how highly the Seahawks regarded him, and for better or worse, that contract is going to be a landmark that some players look to when deciding whether to re-sign with Seattle.

Tate made that clear this week even if he never mentioned Harvin by name.

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