- Coley Harvey, ESPN Cincinnati Bengals reporter
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It appears he will be inked to a one-year deal as the Bengals try to determine if the former unrestricted free agent can retain his job later this summer.
Offensive coordinator Hue Jackson has said multiple times this offseason that he wants to draft one or two speedy, shifty, smaller receivers who can also factor into the Bengals' special teams as returners. While he never suggested Tate might be re-signed, it has been clear Jackson wants to take his receivers at the bottom of the Bengals' depth chart in a new direction.
"He has to be a playmaker that is fast," Jackson said about possible draft targets at the combine in February. "I'm looking for a great football player, if we do decide to go that way, who can give us something we don't already have. We have some very talented players at the [receiver] spot, but again, I don't think you can ever have too many playmakers."
Head coach Marvin Lewis appeared to back up Jackson at the combine, suggesting it was time the Bengals look for playmakers in this draft class who had return ability.
Tate's return prowess has been in question for much of his three seasons in Cincinnati. Last season, he was no longer the team's dominant kick returner as cornerback Adam Jones split more time with him in that role than before. Among those with 20 or more returns last season, Jones led the NFL in kick-return average with 31.3 yards per return. His 27 kick returns were the second-most of his career, outpaced only by the 43 he had as a rookie in 2005.
Last season, Tate averaged 22.1 yards on his 18 kickoff returns. He also had 17 catches, his most since 2010. Tate also averaged 9.7 yards per punt return.
He ranks third on the Bengals' all-time list in kickoff returns (127) and punt returns (126). With just 20 kickoff returns and 15 punt returns, he could take over the franchise's all-time lead in both categories this season.
"Brandon has been a big contributor to the success of our team in qualifying for the playoffs the past four seasons," Lewis said in a news release. "We are happy he has decided to remain a Bengal."
Of speed receivers with return ability the Bengals could target in the draft, Miami (Florida) product Phillip Dorsett could be at the top of the list. At his pro day Wednesday, Dorsett ran 40-yard dash times of 4.25 and 4.27 seconds, according to ESPN Dolphins reporter James Walker, who covered the event. Walker also reported that Jackson was in attendance for the Bengals.
Some draft insiders are projecting Dorsett to be available when the Bengals make their second-round pick at No. 53 overall.
In a move that seems to be all about establishing training-camp competition, the Bengals re-signed receiver and kick returner Brandon Tate.