By Brent Stecker
Entering the 2013 season, the Seahawks didn't have a clear-cut No. 1 wide receiver, especially with new acquisition Percy Harvin recovering from hip surgery. What they did have, though, were two receivers in contract years – Golden Tate and Doug Baldwin – that each had the opportunity to become quarterback Russell Wilson's top option and prove they are worthy of being a priority for the Seahawks re-sign.
Golden Tate, who will be a free agent after the postseason, emerged as the Seahawks' top receiver during the regular season, leading the team with 898 receiving yards. (AP)
With the regular season in the books, Tate appears to have emerged as that top option.
In his fourth year, he set career highs with his team-leading 898 receiving yards and 64 receptions, and he was huge in the Seahawks' NFC West title-clinching win over the Rams last Sunday, hauling in eight catches for 129 yards (both also career highs) and a touchdown.
For comparison's sake, Tate's previous season-bests were 688 yards and 45 receptions in 2012, and the next-closest Seahawks receiver this season was Baldwin with 778 yards and 50 receptions.
With the Seahawks on a bye this week due to their division title win, Tate was able to reflect on the regular season, which he did while on with 710 ESPN's Seattle's "Wyman, Mike and Moore" Friday.
"I'll just say it was better than last year," Tate said of his 2013 performance. "I always want to do better than I have the previous year, and I think I did. I think I made a huge jump."
Tate's improvement should make him a big priority for the Seahawks to re-sign in the offseason, as ESPN NFL analyst John Clayton said during his "Cold Hard Facts" segment on "Wyman, Mike and Moore."
"He's kind of the main guy now. I think that you've gotta try to re-sign him because he's part of the core group of the team. He fits the personality of this team," Clayton said. "He's aggressive, he's tough, he's a Hines Ward type of guy, and I think he's the guy that I think Pete Carroll would like to have on his team for his entire career. ... He may not be a No. 1 guy but I think he's clearly an established No. 2 receiver in the big picture."
Numbers-wise, Tate would need to keep his contract demands under $6 million a year to be viable for Seattle, according to Clayton.
"If he pushes for more than $6 million, I think it's gonna be tough. If he comes in under six I think he's gonna be fine," Clayton said. "Somewhere between $4 and $6 million a year (is expected). That cost is gonna cost them Sidney Rice, but they've gotta try to manage it."
From Tate's perspective, he's prepared to sign long-term with Seattle.
"I think the trust in this organization with me is very strong, so I appreciate that, and I definitely want to be here," Tate said. "I really enjoy everything about this city, all the way from the coaching staff and the guys I work with all the way down to just being in the community, the food. The fan base is awesome and I tell you guys that every week. There's nothing bad about this city. I really enjoy being here and I hope to be here for a bit longer."