auden-tate-1400.jpg
USATSI

When the Cincinnati Bengals took the field against the Cleveland Browns on Thursday night, they did so without one of their top pass targets of the 2019 season. Wide receiver Auden Tate, who started 10 games a year ago and was reportedly the club's "offensive MVP" this summer, was a surprise inclusion on the Bengals' inactive list, benched in favor of reserves like John Ross III and Mike Thomas. Now, Tate's agent, Deiric Jackson, says he intends to contact the team about the receiver's role, indicating he'd potentially seek a trade for his client in the absence of future opportunities.

"He was healthy and ready to go," Jackson says of Tate, who was also limited to 15 snaps in the Bengals' Week 1 loss. "If they don't know how to use him, I'm sure there are plenty of other teams that would love to have a weapon like that offensively."

Tate, 23, loves Cincinnati, has an affinity for new quarterback Joe Burrow and is "not gonna cause a disruption." But Jackson, who also represents Bengals practice squad running back Jacques Patrick, says the third-year wideout, who was a seventh-round draft pick of the Bengals in 2018, has done more than enough to at least warrant a spot on Cincy's game-day roster.

"I don't care if it's a first-rounder, whatever, you play your best guys," he says. "I know the type of chemistry that him and Joe Burrow (have) been having. He's played special teams ... If you're not going to use him, why not let him go seek opportunities elsewhere?"

Jackson doesn't have immediate plans to request a trade but did not rule out the possibility. A separate NFL source speculated Friday that several teams would at least explore the availability of Tate, who's under contract with Cincy through 2021, including the San Francisco 49ers, New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles.

Pressed into action after injuries to Ross and starter A.J. Green in 2019, Tate finished second on the team in targets during Zac Taylor's first season as head coach, hauling in 40 passes for 575 yards in 12 games, while earning high marks for both his receiving and blocking. He did this in between an early return from a neck injury that forced him to leave one game on a stretcher, per Jackson, and then "spent a lot of time with Joe Burrow" in the offseason leading up to a reportedly hot summer as a favorite target for the team's No. 1 draft pick.

Coach Zac Taylor informed Tate of his deactivation ahead of Thursday night's loss to Cleveland, telling the receiver the team simply wanted to carry more depth at other positions. Like some incredulous Bengals fans, however, Jackson is simply of the belief Tate isn't among those in the team's crowded WR room -- featuring Green, Ross, Thomas, Tyler Boyd, Tee Higgins and Alex Erickson -- who should be sidelined in that scenario.

"We're not jumping the gun," he explains, "but I also understand that in that game last night, there were some plays that he could've made. He's a selfless player, but he also wants to be able to help his team."