The Philadelphia Eagles have struggled to find healthy and reliable wide receivers who can make plays and stretch the field for quarterback Carson Wentz.
The Eagles had Golden Tate in their building for last season’s final eight weeks and playoffs, but they let him sign in-division with the Giants as a free agent.
No hard feelings, says Tate, who cleared the concussion protocol Friday and is expected to play Monday night at Lincoln Financial Field.
“Hey, they made a decision and did what they did. I’m not looking back,” Tate, 31, told the Daily News in late November. “I’m happy where I am. It is what it is. Whatever. They rented me for 10 games, we went to the playoffs and won a playoff game, and they let me go, I guess.
“I mean, I was a free agent,” the ninth-year veteran added. “I’m just thankful for my opportunity there to get in the playoffs and help them win. Life goes on. I have to move on. They’ve moved on. And here I am in the same division. It is what it is. I don’t hold any grudges. Thankful for the opportunity.”
Tate’s short time in Philly after a midseason deadline trade from Detroit wasn’t an easy transition, however.
Only weeks after Eagles GM Howie Roseman traded a third-round pick to the Lions for Tate, offensive coordinator Mike Groh lamented it had been “challenging to integrate” Tate.
Tate’s limited early usage and Groh’s comment appeared to reflect a disconnect between the Eagles’ front office and coaching staff. Tate was caught in the middle.
He still managed 30 catches for 278 yards and a touchdown in eight games (three starts). And the highlight of his time there was a fourth-and-goal, 2-yard touchdown catch from Nick Foles with 56 seconds left to beat the host Chicago Bears, 16-15, in the wild-card playoff game.
But his time there was short-lived, and despite rampant outside criticism that Tate had lost a step, he landed a huge payday from the Giants with a four-year, $37.5 million contract that included $23 million guaranteed.
The Giants’ investment initially seemed to blow up in their face when Tate was suspended for the four first games of the season due to performance-enhancing drug use.
It was a big blow, of course, considering Eli Manning started 0-2 and was benched in Week 3 for Daniel Jones.
The 2-10 Giants have lost each of the seven games Tate’s played since he re-entered the lineup in Week 5, but he’s played well.
Tate has 36 catches in seven games for 450 yards, four TDs and one lost fumble. That includes a six-catch, 102-yard performance in his second game at New England with a 64-yard touchdown catch from Jones.
The Eagles thought DeSean Jackson’s return would give Carson Wentz a deep and talented receiver group. But after Jackson erupted for eight catches, 154 yards and two TDs in a Week 1 win over Washington, he got hurt and hasn’t played since.
No. 1 receiver Alshon Jeffrey has been in and out of the lineup, though he just had a big game in Miami. Slot receiver Nelson Agholor (knee) might miss Monday’s game. And the rest of the Eagles’ receiving corps has been patched together with no-names or simply not up to snuff.
“I watch them whenever they’re on (prime time), on Sunday night or Monday Night Football,” Tate said. “I watched them against the Patriots. It’s tough they don’t have DeSean Jackson, who’s a burner. Did A.J. play? They didn’t have their No. 1 out there.”
Monday’s game will be Tate’s first with Manning as his quarterback.
Tate said when he signed that he likes playing with veteran QBs because they aren’t afraid to throw over the middle, where Tate can do what he does best: gain yards after the catch.
If he and Manning quickly develop some chemistry, he might have a chance to spoil the 5-7 Eagles’ NFC East title chase and show them what they’re missing.