The Bengals are giving tight end Daniel Coats another chance. Now it's up to Coats to make the best of the opportunity.
Coats, who attracted criticism for his inability to hold onto the football last season, has re-signed with the team. The Bengals, seemingly unfazed by Coats' dropped passes and fumbles, announced the move this morning.
Terms of the deal were not immediately released but it is believed that Coats signed for close to the minimum salary for fourth-year players, in the neighborhood of $550,000.
Coats, 25, made a base salary of $450,000 last year after re-signing with the Bengals as an exclusive-rights free agent on February 12, 2009.
Coats, a 6-foot-3, 264-pound Brigham Young graduate, has been with the Bengals since signing as a college free agent in 2007.
His former contract expired after the 2009 season, making him a restricted free agent.
Coats and J.P. Foschi, who eventually became the regular starting tight end last season, became unrestricted free agents March 5 when the Bengals did not send them tender offers as restricted free agents by the deadline. They were permitted to negotiate with the Bengals or any other NFL team. The Bengals would not have been compensated had Coats signed with another team.
The Bengals now have three tight ends under contract: Coats and untested rookies from last season - Chase Coffman, who was drafted, and Darius Hill who was not. The team has not ruled out re-signing Foschi and former starter Reggie Kelley, who missed all of last season with a ruptured Achilles and would be entering his 11th year in the league.
Speculation has the Bengals taking a tight end sometime during the first two rounds of April's draft, but it remains to be seen if a pre-draft stockpiling of bodies at the position is an indication the Bengals may not be leaning toward drafting a tight end that early.
Among Coats' assets is the fact he is a willing and able blocker and he can be counted on to suit up each week. He has played in 48 of a possible 49 games (including postseason) in his Bengals career. He has a career total of 30 receptions for 291 yards (9.7 average).
While Bengals tight ends were dropping like flies due to injury, Coats didn't miss a game last season, playing in all 16 plus the Wild Card playoff game against the New York Jets. Coats had 11 starts. He caught 16 passes for 150 yards, and his blocking contributed to a Bengals rushing attack that produced a franchise-record eight 100-yard games by individual running backs.
Including preseason games, Coats fumbled three times last season and lost two of them. He didn't have a fumbling problem his first two years in the league. He also had some inopportune dropped passes. But his signing confirms that Bengals coaches believe Coats can overcome his case of the drops and continue to improve as a receiver and power blocker.