Free-agent running back Ben Tate and the Browns have been seeing each other, but speed dating is not part of the arrangement.
Tate visited the Browns on Thursday night and again on Friday, a team spokesman confirmed, but the two sides had yet to strike a deal at press time. If they do eventually reach an agreement, Tate would be in line to become the team’s featured running back next season.
Either way, fans and media will need to exercise some patience to learn how this courtship plays out.
Eager for an outcome, one fan whose Twitter handle is @DjHenry_ directed the following tweet to Tate at 5:45 p.m. Friday: “BREAKING: #Browns and Ben Tate are almost done with their game of Monopoly. I’m told if Ben wins he leaves and if Browns win he has to sign.”
Apparently, Tate appreciated the joke about his extended visit. At 5:53 p.m., he responded to @DjHenry_ by tweeting, “Lmao that’s a good one.”
Browns guard Jason Pinkston joined the fun and launched an unofficial Twitter campaign to persuade Tate to join the organization.
“@BenTateRB sign them papers!!” Pinkston tweeted at 6:29 p.m. Friday. Then 17 minutes later, Pinkston tweeted, “Hey @Browns fans let @BenTateRB know we want him here! #TateWait.”
At 9:28 p.m. Friday, a fan with the Twitter handle @billmcb51 directed a tweet at Tate that read, “@BenTateRB I plan on reading that you sign with the Browns, give us the first real RB since I hit puberty. I am 37, it’s been a long time.”
To which Tate responded at 9:53 p.m., “Lol [laughing out loud] I understand that pain for wanting a good RB then.”
In all seriousness, the Browns desperately need a bona fide starting running back, and Tate would fill the void if new General Manager Ray Farmer secured him. If a deal with Tate isn’t in the cards, the Browns would likely turn to other free agents.
They could also use one of their 10 picks in May’s draft to address the position.
The 5-foot-11, 217-pound Tate has 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.
Tate, 25, has spent his entire career with the Houston Texans, serving as the primary backup to three-time Pro Bowl running back Arian Foster. In 2010, the Texans drafted Tate in the second round (58th overall) out of Auburn University, 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. He played through the injury for several weeks.
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 that 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.
Cincinnati Bengals coach Marvin Lewis, speaking during a news conference Friday, revealed the organization has yet to decide if it’s going to match the Browns’ offer sheet that restricted free-agent slot receiver Andrew Hawkins signed.
The offer sheet was submitted to the Bengals on Thursday, so they have until Tuesday to match it. The deal is for four years and worth $13.6 million.
NFL Network reported Thursday that the Bengals are unlikely to match the offer. If they don’t match it, Hawkins will join the Browns.
Potential landing spot
The Dallas Cowboys have expressed interest in former Browns quarterback Brandon Weeden, ESPNDallas.com reported Friday.
The Browns cut Weeden, 30, on Wednesday. He has compiled a record of 5-15 as a starter, 23 touchdown passes and 26 interceptions since the Browns drafted him 22nd overall in 2012.
The Cowboys have starting quarterback Tony Romo and backup Kyle Orton, who has one year left on his contract. They haven’t carried three quarterbacks on their active roster since 2011.
Weeden signed a four-year, $8.1 million contract with the Browns in 2012. It included $7.5 million guaranteed. The Browns still owe Weeden $2.1 million, though they’d only need to pay the difference if he signs for less with his next team. The Browns will carry $4.2 million in dead money under the salary cap this year from Weeden’s deal.
Nate Ulrich can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Browns blog at http://www.ohio.com/browns. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/NateUlrichABJ and on Facebook www.facebook.com/browns.abj.