Some things never change, and for the time being, neither will the annual offseason question of will Brandon Tate be back with the Bengals in 2016.
As has been the case every offseason since 2013, Tate is becoming an unrestricted free agent after a so-so season. Ever since the Bengals initially claimed Tate off waivers from the Patriots in 2011, he's been the team's primary return man on both kickoffs and punts.
Through seven NFL seasons, Tate has appeared in 98 games and returned 154 punts for 1,415 yards (9.2 avg.) and one touchdown. He's also returned 190 kickoffs for 4,680 yards (24.6 avg.) and two scores. Neither marks are bad so to say, but they aren't exactly game-changing numbers either, and his lack of big plays during his Bengals career is why there's doubt every offseason as to whether he will or should be back.
Tate didn't doing anything bad so to say this past season, but he didn't exactly do anything to help as either a returner or wide receiver. In Tate's 98 games, he's caught just 57 passes for 901 yards (15.8 avg.) and six touchdowns. Over the past three seasons, Tate has just 31 grabs for 258 yards and two scores. He also hasn't returned a punt or kickoff for a touchdown since 2011.
Again, he lacks big plays, but hasn't made many bad ones either. Tate has been good about where to field punts and kickoffs in addition as to whether to return them or take a knee/call a fair catch. He's also shown that he can make a big catch here and there when given enough opportunities.
That was the case in Week 4 when he made a huge touchdown grab against the Chiefs in a 36-21 win for the good guys. It was his only snap of the day, and it was his birthday.
But again, as little as Tate has given the Bengals, it's hard to warrant bringing him back based on his production. Then again, with no other capable returner signed for next year, not to mention the possible losses of both Mohamed Sanu and Marvin Jones, re-signing Tate to a veteran minimum deal might not be a bad idea.
And after all, Tate has earned his spot on the roster every season, so why not at least give him a shot to do so again next year? If there's not another receiver the Bengals can find who can do a better job than Tate, why go with a worse option?
Assuming the Bengals lose Sanu and/or Jones in free agency, re-signing Tate would probably be a wise move for the Bengals. There simply aren't any other proven receivers (other than A.J. Green) or returners on the roster. Getting Tate back only becomes more important if cornerback/part-time returner Adam Jones leaves in free agency.
We should expect Tate to be back in Bengals stripes for at least another training camp and preseason, whether he makes the roster will be a debate again come summer.