The Browns filled a major need today by signing free-agent running back Ben Tate. The team announced the move via Twitter.
ESPN’s Adam Schefter, citing an unnamed source, first reported that Tate received a two-year deal. NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reported the two-year contract is worth about $7 million.
Tate visited the Browns on Thursday and on Friday before finally striking a deal this afternoon. He’ll be expected to become the team’s featured back next season.
"Let's do this Cleveland!! #DawgPound," Tate tweeted after the news broke.
Tate also tweeted a link to a video on Vine and wrote, "This is for all u crazy @fans (crazy in a good way) who've been blowing me up on twitter all week!! LOL." In the video Tate said, "It's official. I'm a Brown. I'll give you guys a great running back. Let's do this."
Browns quarterback Brian Hoyer was among those fired up about the move.
"Yessss! Welcome @to Cleveland! Can't wait to hand you the rock!" Hoyer tweeted.
Last season, the Browns tied for 27th in the NFL in rushing yards per game (86.4), led the league with 681 passing attempts and took 49 sacks. Their inability to consistently gain yardage on the ground and run the clock in crucial situations contributed to them losing five games in which they led or were tied in the fourth quarter.
The 5-foot-11, 220-pound Tate should help solve the problem.
Tate had been linked to the Browns since September, when the organization traded running back Trent Richardson to the Indianapolis Colts in exchange for first-round pick (No. 26 overall) in May’s draft. Tate is considered an ideal fit for new Browns offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan’s running game, which is predicated on a zone-blocking scheme. Under Shanahan’s guidance, 2012 sixth-round pick Alfred Morris rushed for 1,613 and 1,275 yards the past two seasons with the Washington Redskins.
Tate had spent his entire career with the Houston Texans, serving as the primary backup to three-time Pro Bowl running back Arian Foster. The Texans drafted Tate in the second round (58th overall) in 2010, but he was sidelined for his entire rookie season with a fractured ankle.
Last season, Tate had 181 carries for 771 yards (4.3 average) and four touchdowns to go along with 34 receptions for 140 yards last season in 14 games. He sat out the last two games with broken ribs he suffered in October.
In ProFootballFocus.com’s rankings, Tate tied for 44th among 55 NFL running backs last season. He fumbled five times and lost two of them.
In 2012, Tate had 65 carries for 279 yards (4.3 average) and two touchdowns to go along with 11 catches for 49 yards in 11 games. After recovering from the broken ankle the wrecked his rookie season, Tate bounced back in 2011, rushing for 942 yards on 175 carries (5.4 average) and four touchdowns and tallying 13 catches for 98 yards in 15 games.
With the Browns, Tate will join a stable that includes complimentary running backs Dion Lewis and Chris Ogbonnaya. Edwin Baker, Fozzy Whittaker and Jamaine Cook will likely be left to fight for a roster spot if the Browns keep four backs.
Then again, the Browns could still further shake up the position this offseason. They have 10 picks in May’s draft, and the addition of Tate might not preclude them from using one of those selections on a running back.
Below is a news release the Browns sent to the media after the team used Twitter to announce that Tate signed.
BEREA, Ohio -- The Cleveland Browns on Saturday agreed to terms with unrestricted free agent Ben Tate. General Manager Ray Farmer made the announcement.
Tate is the fifth player signed by the Browns in the new league year, which began Tuesday. A weapon out of the Cleveland backfield, he has averaged 4.7 yards per carry in his young NFL career.
A 5-10, 220-pound running back entering his fifth NFL season out of Auburn, Tate has spent the past four years (2010-13) with the Houston Texans, where he ranked third on the franchise’s all-time rushing list with 1,992 yards in 40 games. He also played in three Houston playoff games.
Originally Houston’s second-round pick (58th overall) in the 2010 NFL Draft, Tate has 10 career rushing touchdowns and five 100-yard rushing games, while adding 58 receptions for 287 yards.
Last season, Tate led the Texans with 771 rushing yards, while playing in 14 games with seven starts before being placed on injured reserve with cracked ribs. In a near upset vs. New England Dec. 1 in Houston, Tate tied a franchise record with three rushing touchdowns.
Tate missed the 2010 season after an ankle injury during the first preseason game. The following season, he rebounded to post a career-high 942 yards on 175 carries (5.4 avg.).
In college at Auburn, he appeared in 47 career games and rushed for 3,321 yards on 678 carries (4.9 avg.) with 24 touchdowns, and added 53 receptions for 336 yards. A native of Sallsbury, Md., Tate attended Snow High School.