Oct 20, 2013; Kansas City, MO, USA; Houston Texans running back Ben Tate (44) is defended by Kansas City Chiefs safety Kendrick Lewis (23) at Arrowhead Stadium. The Chiefs defeated the Texans 17-16. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Houston Texans Free Agents: Ben Tate is good as gone

If I had to pick one of the Houston Texans free agents to give a three-year contract to, it would be running back Ben Tate for the fact he earned a good, high-paying contract for his play last season.

It doesn’t matter that Tate didn’t rush for 1,000 yards this past season for the 2-14 Texans … what does matter is he proved he’s a real deal starting running back in the NFL.

Here are his numbers for the ’13 season: 181 rushes for 771 yards and four touchdowns with an offense that had quarterback problems from the very first game and an offensive line that wasn’t a healthy unit for basically the entire season.

He also had 34 receptions for 140 yards and four touchdowns in ’13.

The Texans had to be a run-first team, and their opponents knew, it because their veteran quarterback threw to the opposition more than his own team, and the backup who became the starter just wasn’t consistent enough to be a real threat.

By the way … Tate played most of the season with four broken ribs, and it took a fifth one to finally land him on the injured reserve list for the final two games of the regular season.

Early on, Tate had to share time with No. 1 running back Arian Foster, who by Week 6 was on the IR with a back injury that required surgery.

The deal with Tate is the Texans have Foster, and they can’t afford to have both running backs on the payroll anymore.

On March 5, 2012, the Texans signed Foster to a five-year, $43.5 million contract with $20.75 guaranteed. His ’14 salary will be $5.75 million, followed by years of $6 million and $6.5 million. He’ll be a free agent in ’17.

With Tate going to get a big contract, financially, the Texans just can’t keep both.

In late December, the Ultimate Texans blog by the Houston Chronicle wrote:

“Tate said after practice today he ‘probably’ wouldn’t be back, but added ‘you never know.’ But he does know, as does everyone else.”

If I had to guess today as to where Tate will end up next season, I’m picking the Cleveland Browns as the team he’ll play for in ’14 and beyond.

It is a shame the Texans can’t find a way to keep Tate for next season, because if Foster is injured again, they better hope they make the correct decision in picking Tate’s replacement, or ’14 could resemble the ’13 season, and nobody wants a repeat of that.

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