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Bengals re-signing Brandon Tate reeks of security and use of leverage

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The Cincinnati Bengals started off their 2016 free agency period by re-signing a player who has quietly contributed for the past five years, but remains a fan scapegoat. But, there is one reason why Brandon Tate's return is wise.

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In my years of following the NFL and in covering the Bengals for Cincy Jungle, I don't think I've ever seen a player have the type of professional path and overall career trajectory as Brandon Tate. After being drafted in the third round by the New England Patriots in 2009, the Bengals scooped him off waivers right before the 2011 season. In the six offseasons between 2011-2016, Tate has since signed two one-year contracts, not including the one he inked on Friday.

The announcement of Tate's contract was an uninspiring and inauspicious start to the team's free agency period. As the player who seems to be presumably one of the easiest players to re-sign of their 14 total unrestricted free agents for a variety of reasons, you have to wonder why Tate's contract was placed ahead of other high-profile players. Maybe the answer is because of the aforementioned ease, along with affordability.

Personally speaking, Tate's re-signing doesn't sit that well with me and when we asked the masses, you responded similarly. For a team that has lost five straight first round playoff games and seven in the current head coach's tenure, I'm not sure how retaining a lower-tier receiver/returner, in terms of stats in both categories, pushes a team to be improved enough to get past the consistent hurdle. But, as the Bengals' front office seems to continue to prove, they know more than we armchair General Managers.

In those 13 other unrestricted free agents outside of Tate, the Bengals are facing the potential loss of another return man in Adam Jones, as well as two of the top-three receivers in the position group in Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu. While Tate only has one return touchdown in his five years as a Bengal, as well as just three touchdown receptions with Cincinnati, there is a hidden intelligence in a widely-unpopular kickoff (see what I did there?) to free agency.

Three of those 13 unrestricted free agents directly affect the two areas where Tate is utilized: receiving and special teams. Adam Jones has been used sparingly behind Tate in the return game, but has been effective in his limited sample size. Meanwhile, receivers Sanu and Jones are threatening to leave via free agency, making Tate the longest-tenured veteran at receiver on the Bengals outside of A.J. Green.

Sometimes you have to flex your muscle to others in order to put them in their place.

Now, the muscle behind making the Tate signing an example is minimal and might not send the type of shockwaves to the camps of Pacman, Sanu and Jones that one would hope. Still, as Mike Brown-esque as a cheap Tate re-signing might be, seeming to make a statement to players attempting to show their worth to a frugal franchise might have pulled a few more chips back in the Bengals' corner when negotiating with these three.

If that truly is the case, the agents respectively representing those three players will point to Tate's lack of stats and impact over the years, whereas their players have a grander standing with the Bengals. While it's true, the Bengals can fall back on the "system and other surrounding talent makes the player" argument.

The other aspect to it all is simple security, or what's otherwise crassly known as "C.Y.A.". What if the Bengals were to lose all three players very early in free agency? Second-year man Mario Alford would rise to the top of the heap, but "unproven" and "non-preferential" don't seem to work in one's bargaining favor.

We don't know exactly how the negotiations are going. What if those who are representing both Joneses and Sanu are asking for the moon? Reports have the Joneses garnering interest outside of the Bengals, while it seems like Sanu is all but gone, given reports, likely sourced by his agent. Why not have something resembling a bargaining chip when continuing to address these parties? If they had no one on the roster at either receiver or returner when free agency hits, what, besides offering a competitive team and a familiar atmosphere (admittedly backseats to money and increased opportunities), do the Bengals have to offer that other teams don't?

Tate's most recent contract with the Bengals rightfully elicits eye rolls from the fanbase. He keeps getting handed a job that many feel isn't one he has proven to deserve, but in such a precarious situation with three pivotal players threatening to leave, retaining Tate as security, leverage and having a camp body at a minimum seems to make sense.

Given the landscape and the likelihood of an affordable contract the Bengals signed with Tate, the unpopular decision with fans and this writer actually bears merit. A different discussion could be had if/when Tate takes return opportunities from Alford or another promising youngster, but for now the contract makes sense--even if it's an unpopular one.