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Bengals open free agency by re-signing WR Brandon Tate

At least one Cincinnati Bengals free agent has re-signed.

Reserve wideout and kick return specialist Brandon Tate re-signed with the Bengals on Friday afternoon to signal the start to the 2016 free-agency period for the franchise. The Bengals have 13 other unrestricted free agents in need of contracts once the new league year begins next Wednesday. He was signed to a one-year deal.

Tate returns to a Bengals receiving corps that could be in flux based upon what happens in the next few days. A pair of 2012 Bengals draft picks, Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu, are set to hit the open market to see what their value could be elsewhere. It seems likely the Bengals will be able to re-sign at least one of them. If both leave, though, that leaves Cincinnati with a receivers room that includes Tate, A.J. Green and little-used backups Mario Alford and James Wright. Wright is still recovering from a knee surgery that kept him out all of 2015.

This is the fifth contract Tate has signed with the Bengals, and the fourth straight year he has agreed to a one-year deal.

A 2009 third-round pick to the Patriots, Tate has been with the Bengals since the 2011 season, when he was claimed on waivers. He has played a minor role in Cincinnati's offense since his arrival, catching only 33 passes in those five seasons. A 55-yard touchdown catch against Kansas City was his biggest highlight in his three-catch 2015 season. On the broken play, Tate extended his route downfield as Andy Dalton rolled out of the pocket. Tate dove for the pass, caught it and got up and dove for the goal line before he was touched by a defender.

Tate has been the Bengals’ primary punt and kick returner, occasionally splitting reps with free-agent cornerback Adam Jones. Tate had 18 kick returns for an average 22.9 yards per return and 27 punt returns for an average 6.3 yards per return last season.

"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," coach Marvin Lewis said in a news 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."

Free agency formally begins at 4 p.m. ET Wednesday when the new league year begins. Teams are permitted to re-sign their own unrestricted free agents at any time before then. On Monday, all teams will be allowed to speak with the representatives of any free agent they would like. It's at that time when Jones and Sanu could first learn their value outside of Cincinnati.