The Cincinnati Bengals have made their first move of NFL Free agency, and it is a move they've been making frequently in recent offseasons.
The team announced Friday that wide receiver Brandon Tate has been re-signed. Bengals.com's Geoff Hobson says it's a one-year deal. Some things never change, and for the time being, neither will Tate being in Cincinnati.
"Brandon has made big plays to help us win games, and the consistency of his work ethic and his overall play is a big plus," head coach Marvin Lewis said in a press release. "We’re excited to have him back in the mix on both offense and special teams. He’s a player we’ve been able to count on every week."
As has been the case every offseason since 2013, Tate was set to become an unrestricted free agent after a season in which his impact was very minimal. Ever since the Bengals initially claimed Tate off waivers from the New England Patriots in 2011, he's been the team's primary returner on both kickoffs and punts.
Through seven NFL seasons, Tate has played in 98 games and returned 154 punts for 1,415 yards (9.2 avg.) with one touchdown. He's also returned 190 kickoffs for 4,680 yards (24.6 avg.) and two more scores.
While neither marks are bad, they aren't exactly game-changing numbers either, the stability and not turning the ball over has been enough that the Bengals coaches like keeping him there. He's also been good about where to field punts and kickoffs in addition as to when to return them or take a knee/call a fair catch. The level of trust the coaches have in him is really why he keeps getting his job back.
But as a pass-catcher, Tate's name has rarely even so much as appeared in a box score. In his 98 games, Tate caught just 57 passes for 901 yards (15.8 avg.) and six touchdowns. Over the past three seasons, Tate has just 31 receptions for 258 yards and two scores. He also hasn't returned a punt or kickoff for a touchdown since 2011.
This past season, Tate did manage to catch one touchdown, and it a was a big one against the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 4. It came in a 36-21 win, and not only was the play his only snap of the day, but it was his birthday as well.
We may see more of these plays in 2016 based on the possible defections of both Mohamed Sanu and Marvin Jones in free agency this offseason. They're both set to hit the market next week, and all indications are multiple teams are prepared to offer them sizable contracts. Whether the Bengals do the same will have to be seen.
And with only James Wright, Mario Alford and some practice squad receivers on the roster, the Bengals may very well need Tate to become a bigger part of the offense in 2016. Say what you will about Tate's lack of big plays, but the Bengals were smart to re-sign him this offseason in particular with a lot of uncertainty at this position.
Now, 'try' and be reasonable in the comments section. The Bengals just re-signed their first free agent of 2016 after all.