CLEVELAND — Ben Tate was on the Browns’ radar for months. He’s now on their roster.
Tate signed a two-year, $7 million free agent deal on Saturday with Cleveland, which has been desperate to find a quality every-down running back since trading Trent Richardson to Indianapolis early last season.
Tate, who spent the past four years with Houston, fills the void and the 25-year-old is excited to begin a new chapter of his career with the Browns.
“LET’S DO THIS CLEVELAND!! (hashtag) DawgPound,” Tate posted on his Twitter account along with a photo of him wearing a Browns ball cap.
Later in a teleconference, Tate said he’s eager to show he can be a feature back.
“It’s been something I’ve been waiting for, for a long time,” he said. “I’m just ready to grab this opportunity and run with it and show everyone what I’m all about. … I feel like now that I’ve been given this opportunity that I can be one of the top backs in the league. I’m going to let my play speak for itself. But I want it to be known that I do feel like I’m a guy who’s gonna be a top-10, top-8, top-5 running back.”
Tate had been linked to the Browns almost from the moment they made the shocking deal to send Richardson to the Colts for a 2014 first-round draft pick.
Cleveland considered trading for Tate, but decided to wait until he was available as a free agent. Tate was one of the top free agent backs on the market, and after spending two days visiting the Browns, his agents and the team finalized a deal.
He spent the down time messaging with fans on Twitter, hoping Cleveland would become his new football home.
“I really wanted to be here,” said Tate, adding he had other visits lined up. “I thought this was going to be the best opportunity for me. I felt like the pieces that’s already here, offensive line-wise and their plans to build in the rest of free agency and also in the draft, so I felt like this was going to be just the best opportunity for me to succeed and to help turn this thing around and take it to another level.”
Tate rushed for 771 yards last season, his fourth with the Texans. He played part of the year with broken ribs, an injury that would have sidelined most players.
He has averaged 4.7 yards per attempt during his career. After sitting out his rookie season in 2010 with a broken ankle, Tate took over after starter Arian Foster got hurt in 2011 and rushed for 942 yards and four touchdowns, averaging 5.4 yards per carry.
Tate said it was tough sitting and waiting behind Foster for his chance to shine.
“I feel like I’m explosive,” he said when asked to describe his running style. “I feel like I can make guys miss when you hit the open field. I feel like if it’s third-and-1 and I’ve got to go one-on-one with a linebacker that I can do that as well.
“So I just feel like I’m a total package. I feel like I can do everything there is to. I can catch the ball out of the backfield. I feel like I can do everything. I’m a three-down back. I just would say I’m just a complete back.”
The Browns ranked tied for 27th in the league with 86.4 yards rushing per game last season and scored only four TDs on the ground.
Tate is the fifth free agent signed by the Browns this week, joining safety Donte Whitner, linebacker Karlos Dansby, cornerback Isaiah Trufant and tight end Jim Dray. Cleveland has signed Cincinnati wide receiver Andrew Hawkins to an offer sheet and is waiting to see if the Bengals are going to match it for the quick slot receiver.
Also, the Browns are in a holding pattern on Pro Bowl center Alex Mack. They designated him as their transition player, locking him into a one-year, $10.039 million deal in 2014 unless he signs an offer sheet elsewhere that Cleveland will have time to match.