Health can bring wealth for Tate
All that waiting and waiting and waiting for just a two-year contract worth $7 million?
Yep, that’s what Ben Tate gets for autographing said contract with the Browns Saturday, solving in one big gulp the club’s running game problems. Maybe.
Why maybe? Because Tate is a running back who has trouble staying healthy. He has never suited up for all 16 games in a regular season in his three campaigns with the Houston Texans.
But negotiating more than 48 hours for just $7 million? That’s a deal that could have been reached in 48 minutes, let alone 48 hours. One would have thought the two sides were haggling over something like a four- or five-year deal in the $35-$40 million range.
Maybe they were and couldn’t come to terms on a long-term deal. Obviously, the Browns took Tate’s penchant for being unable to avoid injury into consideration and declined to offer more than two years.
It was as though they said something like let’s see what you can give us in those two years and we’ll revisit your contract. Show us you can withstand the rigors of a 16-game season, provide positive numbers and your stay in Cleveland will become more permanent.
There is no question Tate, rumored it seems to be the replacement for Trent Richardson almost since Richardson’s trade to Indianapolis last September, is the kind of running back who can be a game-breaker.
Most savvy pro football fans knew he was going to be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the 2013 season and the Browns, with arguably the worst running game in the NFL, were looking desperately for a feature back. It was a natural fit.
Tate considers himself a feature back. His only problem was the man playing in front of him on the Texans’ depth chart. Arian Foster is one of the elite running backs in the National Football League.
Until last season, Tate was known mainly as one of the best backup running backs in the National Football League. He ran for 942 yards playing part-time as a rookie in 2011 in his only relatively injury-free season. And injury-riddled 2012 season saw him run for just 279 yards.
But when Foster went down early with a knee injury this past season, Tate had his chance. But broken ribs slowed him and he produced only 771 yards in 14 games, no doubt hurting his chances of scoring a big contract.
Why other teams didn’t rush after Tate once free agency began is a mystery. He’s still very young at 25 (he’ll be 26 in August) with his prime years dead ahead. Maybe the Browns were the only team that would have provided him with the chance to be a feature back. Now he is being afforded the opportunity to back up his words.
At 5-11, 215 pounds, he is your prototypical cutback runner. And with the Browns’ new zone-blocking scheme under new offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, it looks like a perfect fit.
It looks as though the Browns finally got lucky with a big-name signing. They also got lucky with the numbers. Bottom line: They got off cheaply with this signing.
The chances of maximizing their investment rest solely on Tate’s ability to remain healthy. If he does, then he could very well become the biggest bargain of the 2014 free-agent class.