Detroit Lions TE Michael Roberts hopes Sunday’s touchdown is the ‘first of tons’

 “December 17 Cheap Frank
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 , 2016.”Ask Michael Roberts when his last football
touchdown was prior to his first NFL score on Sunday against the 49ers and he’ll
tell you the exact date. The Toledo Rockets, led by star running back Kareem
Hunt, dropped their season finale to Appalachian State 31-28. But red zone
phenom Michael Roberts kept them in the game early, grabbing a curl route and
shaking two defenders on his way to the end zone. 638 days later, Roberts
finally found the end zone again—he’s been counting the days... well, sort of.
“To be honest, I knew from a year and then I just added from there,” Roberts
admitted to the media on Wednesday.It has been a rough go in the time between
touchdowns. Roberts was selected by the Lions in the fourth round of the 2017
NFL draft, a move that was met with some healthy skepticism. Though the Lions
went into the draft with a need at tight end, the defensive line had remained
unaddressed through three rounds, and a few popular players, including local
product Ryan Glasgow, were still on the board. Others preferred Jake Butt or
George Kittle as a tight end. So a lot was expected of Roberts in his rookie
year. As a player coming off a 16-touchdown senior year, many were hoping he’d
be an immediate red zone threat, especially with the struggles surrounding Eric
Ebron. But his rookie season didn’t go as planned. Roberts played in about 15
snaps per game and was mostly used as a blocker or decoy, two roles he wasn’t
all that familiar with. The man with gargantuan hands would only end up cradling
a four catches in 2017 for a mere 46 yards. Even worse, his season ended with a
team-given suspension for missing a team meeting. Things looked even more dreary
going into 2018. The Lions’ tight end room was purged, leaving Roberts as the
only holdover from the year prior. It was his opportunity to break out, but the
preseason left fans wanting more. Roberts only had two catches for 29 yards in
the exhibition season Cheap Kerryon
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 , and the rest of the tight ends didn’t look much
better.“I felt kind of quiet in the preseason,” Roberts said. “I felt like I
hadn’t done much.” But Roberts is hoping Sunday’s touchdown—his first catch of
the season—is “the beginning of something” now that he’s gotten the proverbial
monkey off his back and realized a dream come true in San Francisco.“(It’s) kind
of a weight lifted, but really just a moment I’ve been dreaming about,” Roberts
said. “I dream about that moment so many times, and just the way it happened it
was ideal for me.” Roberts has a long way to go from here. He now only has five
career catches and eight targets in 16 games played. He’s clearly still working
on developing a chemistry with Matthew Stafford, and nothing is guaranteed. But
Roberts is hopeful Sunday’s touchdown is just the tip of the iceberg. “The first
of tons, that’s what I hope.”The Detroit Lions should trade Golden Tate I love
Golden Tate. If you are a Lions fan, you probably do too. Since coming to
Detroit, the electric wide receiver has played in every game, scored 22
touchdowns, and has made defender after defender look completely silly. Tate’s
effort against the Cowboys last Sunday was a perfect example of exactly what he
can do with the ball in his hands.When Tate signed a five-year, $31 million
contract with the Lions before the 2014 season, it had the potential to be a
steal. Indeed, his $6.2 million average annual value puts him at just 38th among
NFL receivers this year. For a player who is borderline top 10 at his position,
Detroit made one of the best signings in the league.However, as this contract
comes to an end, it is impossible to ignore the future. With under a month until
the NFL trade deadline, the Lions need to think about the team’s plans going
forward and how Tate fits in. As exciting as he can be, it would be in the
team’s best interest to trade him now while they still have a chance.Re-signing
makes little senseTate will be 31 at the start of next season but will command a
salary much higher than his current contract. While age might be a factor in
term length Youth
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 , he will certainly look at what his
peers are getting paid and look for something similar. Right now, top-15 wide
receivers are seeing at least $13 million in AAV, while top-20 receivers are all
making over eight figures.It is possible he could take a hometown discount, but
given the fact that he has vocally celebrated every big receiver contract, it
seems clear where his heart lies. This is perfectly normal—players should
absolutely maximize the paychecks that they earn. Though he has mentioned
wanting to stay in Detroit and retire as a Lion, asking and hoping for Tate to
take a smaller cut just to help out the team seems foolish and unfair.Not
spending upwards of $10 million a year on Tate will give the Lions flexibility
to spend elsewhere. Detroit has massive needs along the defensive line and
linebacking corps, both of which are much higher priorities than wide receiver,
where they already have two very capable options. There is no logical reason for
the Lions to spend at a position of strength with gaping holes existing on the
other side of the ball.Get draft capitalLosing Tate at the end of the year will
likely trigger a compensatory pick, but knowing where that pick will land is
tough to tell. There is a chance it could end up in the third round, but that
depends on whether the Lions sign any top free agents in the offseason and what
other players are on the move. There is an argument that Tate would net the team
a third-rounder, but this is more of a guess than a statement of fact.I am not
going to spend much time speculating about a possible return for Tate in a trade
because that would absolutely be guessing. However, the NFL has shown that the
wide receiver market to be profitable, with players like Brandin Cooks netting
at least a first-round pick on two occasions and Sammy Watkins bringing home
around a second-rounder. Those players are younger than Tate and had different
contract situations. I include them here only to show a rough idea of how teams
value top receivers and that teams are willing to part with good picks for good
players. A first-rounder is very unlikely, but a second-round pick seems right
within his range, and would be a clear improvement over a compensatory selection
the Lions would get for not trading him.The offense will be fine...The Lions
made Matthew Stafford the highest quarterback at the time of his extension. They
have committed millions and draft picks to the offensive line. They went out and
snagged Marvin Jones. They drafted Kenny Golladay and Kerryon Johnson in
back-to-back years. Lions fans know that this offense has enough weapons to do
everything it needs to do.Tate is a unique player with tons of talent, but the
team can survive without him. As the running game continues to develop, there is
no reason to expect a huge drop off from the offense with Tate to the offense
with whoever replaces him. Most likely, his targets are simply going to Jones
and Golladay. I can only see good things happening as those two continue to be
fed the ball....but if not, it does not matter right nowAt 1-3 ,
the season is not over for Detroit, but the on-field product should cause some
hesitation. Do the Lions look capable of winning the division? Do they look like
they can even hang around the Wild Card hunt? The reality is that everything
needs to go right for the Lions to even have a chance at the No. 6 seed in the
conference; that would be the best-case scenario.The more plausible outcome is
that the defense continues to struggle and the Lions have no ability to stop
opposing running games. Stafford and the offense should be able to sneak out a
couple wins, but even with Tate, the ceiling is probably around .500. There is
no harm in losing Tate right now, as this is not a competing season for the
Lions anyway. In fact, it probably helps them with their draft position for next
year. Losing potentially the best skill player on the offense will have an
impact, but in terms of season outcomes, the variance will be minimal.Making the
difficult choiceAgain, it is impossible to know what other NFL front offices are
willing to surrender for Tate, but if general manager Bob Quinn gets a
competitive offer, he should seriously consider making a move. It will hurt to
lose Tate, one of the few constants over the past four seasons, but his
production is going to wind down sooner or later. It makes sense to let someone
else make the mistake of overpaying him and getting out now.A second-round pick
and additional cap space, plus the team’s own picks—which will likely be high in
draft order—will go a long way in helping the Lions fill out the roster. The
offense might take a slight step back, but that sacrifice is more than worth it
to see the defense take huge leaps forward. Thank you for your service, Golden,
but the hardest choice is the right one in this case. It is time to move
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