As the 2013 season moves forward, it is starting to become the time for the lower-level franchises to start considering what they will do in the offseason. The Houston Texans will be faced with a very difficult decision to make at one of their most important positions after the season concludes.
With a running back with the skill of Foster, it might seem odd to question whether the Texans should give their backup running back a long-term deal, especially after signing Foster to a five-year, $43.5 million contract, with $20.75 million of that contract being guaranteed in 2012.
When healthy, Foster is one of the most talented running backs in the NFL. The only issue is, Foster has had a hard time staying healthy, especially this year.
After playing in all 16 regular-season games in 2012, Foster has had multiple health issues, appearing in eight of Houston’s games. Against the Kansas City Chiefs and the Indianapolis Colts, Foster was pulled in the first quarter of both games because of a nagging back injury. If you take those two games out of the equation, Foster has played meaningful time in just six games.
In 2013, Foster has had a similar level of production that he had in the past. He has accumulated 542 yards on 121 carries this season and has added one rushing touchdown. Through the air, Foster has 22 receptions, 183 yards and one touchdown.
Foster is 27 years old and will be 28 at the start of next season. Per Bleacher Report’s Ty Schalter, there seems to be a trend in recent years where NFL starting running backs have started to decline at the average age of 28. Schalter also pointed out that running backs coming off of 370-carry seasons all saw a decline in production in their next seasons. This stat applies because Foster is coming off of a career-year, a season in which Foster happened to carry the ball 351 times.
This is where Tate's long-term value starts to become something to consider for Houston’s front office. Tate is just 25 years old and has produced when given an opportunity this season, rushing for 399 yards and one touchdown. His yards-per-carry average is 4.5 yards, which is the same as, you guessed it, Arian Foster’s. He also has 17 receptions for 54 yards.
Last season, Tate experienced a drop in production compared to his rookie season. As a rookie, Tate rushed for 942 yards while maintaining a 5.4 yards-per-carry average, and he also added four touchdowns. Last season, Tate had just 279 yards (4.3 YPA) and two touchdowns.
While Tate's ceiling might not be as high as Foster's, keeping him around will be extremely beneficial for the Texans. Even if Foster is able to shake the injury bug next year, it is unknown whether or not he will be able to maintain the same production that he has in prior seasons. If Foster does stay healthy and continue to produce, the Texans could attempt to move Tate to a team that is in need of a running back. If not, Houston would already have their next running back integrated in their system.
Convincing Tate to stay in Houston is another story. Tate is getting older, so he likely wants a chance to produce while he still has years left in his legs, which is something that Houston can't guarantee him.
At the same time, long-term stability with the team that drafted him will be very appealing. The Texans are a quarterback away from being back in the Super Bowl picture. Also, the duo of Tate and Foster would be one of the best running back duos in the NFL. Knowing this, Tate could opt to re-sign if the price is right.
Prediction: Unfortunately, I don’t see Tate re-signing with Houston unless they overpay him. Tate could be a huge piece for the Texans moving forward, so they would love to re-sign him, but his asking price and desire to receive a steady amount of carries every week will be the thing that forces them to part ways.