For those of you clamoring for the Bengals to make some noise with bringing in a free agent, here is your first whimper. The Cincinnati Bengals have announced that an agreement with return specialist Brandon Tate has been reached.
Tate (6-1, 195; North Carolina) is in his sixth NFL season and his fourth with the Bengals in 2014. He has made his mark with the Bengals mostly as a kick returner. His 24.8-yard average on kickoff returns (over 2011-13) is the franchise’s career record, and his 9.9 average on punt returns is second in team annals. H
e is within range for 2014 of taking over the all-time team leads in total punt return and kickoff return yards. He already holds team records for most combined punt and kickoff returns (93) in a season and total punt return yards (543) in a season.
"We’re glad to get back one of our core special teams players," said Darrin Simmons, Bengals special teams coordinator. "Brandon’s numbers speak for themselves, and I’ve got a lot of confidence in him. I think this could be a real breakout year for him."
Tate, who began his career as a third-round draft pick of New England, has played 66 career games with 14 starts. He has played in every regular season and postseason game since joining the Bengals. His full-career numbers include 38 receptions for 649 yards and four touchdowns, a 25.1-yard kickoff return average with two scores, and a 9.8-yard punt return average with one touchdown.
In truth, Tate has been a highly debated player for some time with the Bengals. While he is an adequate return man, people sometimes clamor for a guy with a little more excitement. Arguably Tate's biggest contribution last season was a 29-yard punt return against the Bills in overtime last season. This set the Bengals up for a game winning field goal and saved a win the Bengals looked like they were trying to give away.
Tate also flashed a 71 yard kick return against the Jets in a game where the entire team played well. In the game against the Colts, Tate also had a 43 yard punt return to go along with a 44 yard kick return.
While this may not be the splash that some people want to hear, the Bengals have locked up a kick returner that they are comfortable with. Sometimes keeping the role players is the right move and this could be one of those moves.