It seemed like the City of Cincinnati all groaned at once when Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reported the Cincinnati Bengals re-signed wide receiver and kick returner Brandon Tate. Most Bengals fans’ frustrations boiled over onto Twitter and Facebook. The Queen City clearly wasn’t happy with the re-signing of Tate.
The question for all Bengal fans is why? The most common argument among fans is that cornerback Adam “Pacman” Jones should handle all punt and kickoff returns. The problem with being a full-time kick returner is health. Tate isn’t a vital part the Bengals offense and his main focus will be special teams. However, Jones has had his fair share of injuries with the Bengals and plays a major role on defense.
In 2010 and 2011 Jones only played in 13 games. Last season he played all 16 games and had his best season as a Bengal. According to the grading system of Pro Football Focus, Jones was the team’s best cover cornerback, posting a 9.9 score. That ranked him 6th among all NFL cornerbacks.
With the likely departure of veteran Terrance Newman and Dre Kirkpatrick not getting much on-field experience as a rookie, the Bengals need “Pacman” to be healthy. He needs to focus on the defensive side of the ball. Is sending their most-talented cornerback out there for returns a smart move?
Tate may not be the game-breaker that Jones is on kickoff returns, but he is serviceable. In 2012, he returned 32 kickoffs, averaging 24.8 yards per return. He had two returns of over 40 yards and only lost one fumble. He brings stability to special teams, which could be very beneficial next season.
Let’s say the Bengals did decide to risk Jones’ health and let him return kickoffs and punts full-time. What if he gets hurt? Who will take his place then? Tate will and that is why this signing is smart. The Bengals understand how important depth can be during the NFL season. They now have some flexibility on special teams and less pressure to draft a kick returner in this year’s draft.
They tried to sign return specialist Ted Ginn, who would be an upgrade from Tate. Instead, he opted to join the Carolina Panthers. Relax Bengal fans, this wasn’t a bad move. Re-signing Tate was the next best option and another move that Bengals fans should like heading into next season.