The first hint came via social media this June. The statement has been made on the field this fall. Message received, Golden Tate. You deserve an extension. Admittedly, it’s a bit premature to be talking about a new deal for the dynamic Lions receiver who is under contract through the 2018 season after signing a five-year pact in 2014. But general manager Bob Quinn has set something of a benchmark with his key players — including quarterback Matthew Stafford, cornerback Darius Slay and safety Glover Quin — re-upping with each the month before the start of their final season under contract. If the trend holds true, the team should be announcing a deal for Tate next July. He has openly expressed his desire to stay in Detroit, first tweeting about it in June when Julian Edelman agreed to an extension with the Patriots. And let’s be clear, Tate has earned it. He’s been the model of consistency with the Lions. He hasn’t missed a game, he’s caught at least 90 passes each of his first three seasons, and he’s on pace for another 90-reception, 1,000-yard season this year. Pro Football Focus currently ranks him as a top-five receiver. “I just want to find a way to bring more value to this team and win games,” Tate said. “It’d be great to have those personal stats along with the NFC championship and Super Bowl on my belt because then we’re talking some business now.” Chi-town slip-up At 5-foot-10, 197 pounds, he’s far from a prototypical No. 1 receiver, but in the areas he excels, he does those things better than almost everyone. No receiver makes defenders miss in the open field more than Tate, and it’s a big reason he frequently sits near the top of the league in yards after catch. Those abilities have made him Matthew Stafford’s favorite target on third down in recent years. “This guy, consistently, when you look at the whole body of work, this guy’s been exceptional,” Lions coach Jim Caldwell said. “This guy plays, and plays well, year in and year out. He’s consistent. “He’s been around a while and all he’s done, every single year, is play this game and play it at a very, very high level. Maybe a game or two here or there (he’s struggled), so be it, but that’s going to happen. But he’s been really good for us. Really good.” This week, the Lions travel to Chicago to play the Bears. The last trip might have been Tate’s lowest point in Detroit. He was off to a sluggish start to the year, adjusting to life without Calvin Johnson and his, at the time, red-hot replacement Marvin Jones.