It’s always the forgotten players that hatch the biggest surprises in NFL free agency. That is what running back Ben Tate hopes to achieve in 2014. After a stellar rookie season he fell off the radar due to injuries in 2012. Nobody remembers because the Houston Texans moved on just fine without him. If any player on their roster needs a big season in the midst of Super Bowl hype, it is the third-year man from Auburn.
Tate ready to do more than back up Arian Foster for Texans
A favorite phrase among football enthusiasts is “What a difference a year makes.” It is a statement steeped in history that no team or player is really the same from one season to the next. Sometimes it’s in a good way, others not so much. For Ben Tate it was the latter. People forget he piled up 952 yards and four touchdowns as a rookie in 2011, despite only starting two games. Part of the reason they forgot is he made it through only 11 games a year later while managing just 279 yards. With his contract expiring his duty isn’t about backing up All-Pro Arian Foster anymore. Tate needs a great season if he has any hope of becoming a starter himself. Running backs don’t get many chances because of how physical their position is. A good 2013 would entice another team to take a chance on him becoming their feature back. Otherwise he is likely stuck taking a smaller deal to stay in Houston. There are some things in his favor. Between his two seasons he has averaged 4.8 yards per carry and can also catch passes out of the backfield. Provided he stays healthy is that enough to interest another team?
Colts are eyeing Vick Ballard and Donald Brown closely
Looking at the league as it is running backs rarely get big deals in free agency these days. Only the younger ones seem to attract attention, which falls in favor of Tate who is 24. One other aspect to remember is players quite often draw the most attention from division rivals. This is why the Indianapolis Colts should have an asterisk next to their name on the short list of Tate suitors. They got by on a running back by committee approach in 2012, led by the tandem of Vick Ballard and Donald Brown to top 1,300 yards. That production has earned the two players a reprieve for 2013 but by no means are the Colts satisfied, nor should they be. Neither player averaged over 4.0 yards per carry or was a serious threat in the red zone. The team hopes an improved offensive line will help both problems, but if they don’t and the two runners regress then Indianapolis could go hunting for help. They’ll have plenty of salary cap space in 2014 to do it. Ben Tate should draw their interest provided he plays them twice during the regular season as expected.
Everything depends on health and timing.