Taylor Price showed he's ready to compete for a more prominent role as a WR and in the kicking game. If Price is moving up the charts, someone has to be moving down. Julian Edelman's rookie year has given him a little cushion. Wes Welker, Deion Branch, and Chad Ochocinco... forget about it. Whose left? Brandon Tate.
Edelman, Price, and Welker have primarily handled punt and kickoff duties in practice along with Tate, but it's hard to believe Belichick, who loves the jack of all trades, will stick with a one trick pony. Tate was expected to come in 2010 and become the downfield threat opposite Randy Moss, i.e. Donte Stallworth in 2007.
Tate, however, drafted as a 3rd round pick out of North Carolina in 2009, spent the year recovering from a torn ACL, only seeing action in November of that year before going back on the IR. With a year under his belt going into 2010, the expectations were that he would fill the need for a young speedster who can return kicks.
In the kickoff department Tate took off, showing his explosive open running ability, but from a WR standpoint, he seemed lost most of the time. By the middle of the season, you could see Tate was an after thought to Brady, only being thrown to when the house was on fire and had no choice to throw the baby out the window.
What messsage is Belichick sending by bringing in T.J. Houshmandzadeh? It does one of two things:
1) Shows that what they have seen in practice from Price is encouraging enough to move him up the depth chart,
2) That Tate couldn't find his way out of the Gillette parking lot with a GPS.
Taylor Price not only performed at the WR position, he played very well in returning punt and kicks. The difference between the two is night and day, as Price exudes confidence, while Tate still looks tentative when put into game situations. This is where Belichick is sending a message by bringing T.J. in for a visit.
Stop all the talk about Ochocinco being released, we teased that Ochocinco couldn't keep up with Brady's arm. However, that's not the case, and by bringing in Houshmandzadeh, Belichick is looking for a veteran WR who can get first downs and occasionally have the guile to get behind opposing defenses. Something Tate just doesn't have the abilty too.
Tate's biggest indictment was displayed in the 2011 Divisional Playoff game against the Jets, with Deion Branch having Darrelle Revis locked on him, and Antonio Cromartie on Welker with inside help, that left Tate matched up against Donald Strickland, Dwight Lowery, and Kyle Smith. That was a matchup Tate that should at least draw the CB's or Safety down the field. The Jets had no worry of Tate, and in essence dared Brady to throw in his direction.
Houshmandzadeh gives Brady a veteran target who will fight to get open and find the holes in the defense. People are reporting that Ochocinco could get released because he lowered his base salary, but wouldn't you think he'd lobby for an old buddy from Cincy who can still be effective and a good locker room presence?
With the emergence of Price on special teams and the WR position, there is a spot open for a reliable pass catcher. Houshmandzadeh fills that role much better than Tate at this point.