BOSTON (CBS) — When Ian Rapoport reported that the Patriots signed Bruce Ellington, it was not the name that many Patriots fans were hoping to hear.
Sure enough, just a few minutes later, Adam Schefter reported that Golden Tate — the best receiver available on the free-agent market — was signing a deal with the New York Giants.
That meant, of course, that the Patriots didn’t land Tate, a player whom the Patriots were reportedly targeting earlier in the day. Rapoport said earlier Thursday that the Patriots and Steelers were among the teams interested in acquiring the services of Tate.
“One of the top receivers available … certainly has a lot of interest,” Rapoport said Thursday. “I know a couple teams that were at the least interested in potentially trading for him last year have some interest in him this year. Patriots would be one, the Steelers would be another. At this point, still waiting to find his landing spot. We’ve kind of gone to the second wave of free agent now.”
Tate, 30, has played nine seasons in the NFL — four with Seattle, and four-and-a-half with Detroit before getting traded to Philadelphia last season. He’s caught 611 passes for 7,214 yards and 38 touchdowns.
Tate topped 1,000 receiving yards in three of four seasons between 2014-17, and he’s coming off a 74-catch, 795-yard, four-touchdown season in 2018. Tate has also caught 35 passes for 382 yards and three touchdowns in 11 career playoff games.
The Patriots entered free agency looking a bit thin at the receiver position. Julian Edelman, Ellington, and Dorsett are under contract for 2019, as is Braxton Berrios. The Patriots intend on keeping Josh Gordon, though his availability from his suspension is still up in the air.
The Steelers figured to be a contender to land Tate, as they need someone to help make up for the loss of Antonio Brown. But the Giants, who traded away Odell Beckham Jr. this week, likewise needed to add a productive wide receiver to the mix.
The Patriots tried to sign Tate, Adam Humphries and Cole Beasley thus far, but all three players decided to sign elsewhere.