Updates from Tuesday, Mar. 18
Free-agent running back Ben Tate has agreed to a two-year deal with the Cleveland Browns, according to the Browns' official Twitter feed:
Ian Rapoport of NFL Network first reported the deal:
Ben Tate has agreed to be a member of the Cleveland #Browns, per source. Deal is done.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 15, 2014
ESPN's Adam Schefter confirmed the report:
Browns and RB Ben Tate agreed to terms on a two-year deal, per league source.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 15, 2014
Tate posted a celebratory tweet to Browns fans:
Rapoport also provided contract details:
Ben Tate's deal with the #Browns is for two years and worth about $7M, source says.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 15, 2014
The 25-year-old is widely regarded as the best free-agent back available this spring and has spent the past four seasons with the Houston Texans, rushing for 1,992 yards and 10 touchdowns on 421 carries. With Arian Foster missing eight games to injury, Tate led the Texans in rushing in 2013, averaging 4.3 yards per carry on a career-high 181 attempts.
But there are still unanswered questions surrounding Tate's durability. A rib injury cut his 2013 season short and a broken ankle cost him his entire rookie season in 2010. A second-round selection by the Texans in the 2010 NFL draft, Tate has appeared in 43 NFL games including the playoffs and will turn 26 this summer.
Following Houston's franchise-worst 2-14 season in 2013, Tate made it known via Twitter that he likely wouldn't be back in 2014:
Cleaned out my locker going to miss the guys on this team....we have a lot of good ppl on this team and everyone was cool from the....— Ben Tate (@BenTateRB) December 30, 2013
Trainers to the equipment guys always made it a good time while still getting work done being drafted here I learned a lot that I will— Ben Tate (@BenTateRB) December 30, 2013
Carry on for the rest of my career thanks Htown for all the support but odds are I won't be back— Ben Tate (@BenTateRB) December 30, 2013
In Tate, the Browns are acquiring an experienced back with the potential to thrive in the right offense. While Foster's dominant play in Houston limited Tate's opportunities, the former Auburn star was able to at times display the elusiveness and physicality that suggest he's capable of becoming a quality starting running back in the NFL.
However, it remains to be seen just how effective Tate will be in a new environment in 2014 and beyond.
After all, his yards-per-carry and yards-per-reception averages have steadily declined since his debut season in 2011. Not to mention he struggled to impress with an increased workload this past year in Houston.
In addition to ranking 21st in the league in yards per carry, Tate ranked 34th in runs of 20 or more yards, recording just three all season long.
Although there's no doubt Tate can be a 1,000-yard rusher next season if given the touches and a more consistent offense, his inability to threaten as a receiver out of the backfield makes him one-dimensional. He averaged just 4.9 yards per catch during his time with the Texans, failing to record a single receiving touchdown or reception of more than 14 yards.
Four cracked ribs couldn't stop Ben Tate, but a fifth cracked rib? That put him on IR http://t.co/eE8fR2CJm9— Gregg Doyel (@GreggDoyelCBS) December 19, 2013
Ball security is also something Tate struggles with. He fumbled 10 times over three seasons in Houston, including five times in 2013.
Still, if he's able to remedy those issues and stay healthy and on the field, his aforementioned experience, strong frame and young age make him a solid offseason pickup for Cleveland.
Tate spent his time in Houston working to emerge from Foster's shadow. He has flashed plenty of talent at times, and with a fresh opportunity and the chance to legitimately see more touches, his upside is something to watch in 2014 and beyond.
Follow Bleacher Report Featured Columnist Patrick Clarke on Twitter.