Brownout: Cleveland Releases Ben Tate

George Kritikos


Normally, A Brown release is natural and relieving. In this case, the Brown being released is Ben Tate and there is more shock than relief. After being signed in the off-season for a two year deal (worth up to $7 million), Tate was touted as a top 20 running back in both redraft and dynasty formats by many fantasy writers; myself included.

What I saw was a back who broke through in Houston in 2013, averaging 4.3 yards per carry including an impressive 0.23 missed tackles per carry (second only to Marshawn Lynch). He was joining a team ripe with offensive potential with playmakers Josh Gordon and Jordan Cameron ready to create an explosive offense.

The season started well with Tate looking good in week one before the all too familiar injury bug hit and sidelined him for a month. His best game occurred in week five as Tate torched the Titans for 123 yards on 22 carries, leaving him at 5.9 yards per carry after his first two games. Declining production (Tate never surpassed 3.4 yards per carry in a game after week five and boasts a 3.1 overall average) and mismanagement of the Browns’ backfield led to a disgruntled employee. Tate was unhappy in his dwindling role and expressed it to media, which coupled with the poor performance, led to the Browns releasing Tate.

For the Browns, the release makes sense as Tate is not owed any guaranteed money next year ($2.5 million fully guaranteed this year), just $750,000 in dead money and savings of nearly $3 million in cap space. Add to that a pair of rookie running backs who have been interchangeable with Tate for weeks and the move becomes clearer. Let’s take a look at the fantasy implications:

Fantasy Impact

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Isaiah Crowell, RB CLE

Crowell has been the most productive Browns’ running back with a 4.6 yards per carry average and five touchdowns despite averaging less than ten carries per game. This puts him in a position to exceed his career carry number for the third consecutive week (it now stands at 14 carries) and be the 1A in this offense. Couple that with Gordon’s return to the lineup and he may see bigger holes to run through. Crowell has low-end RB2 or high end flex appeal for a playoff push with the Falcons, Colts, Bengals, and Panthers (all bottom half run defenses) still on the schedule.

Terrance West, RB CLE

West has seen his usage fluctuate significantly from week-to-week as he has as many 15+ carry games (five) as he does games with under seven carries. The production has been just decent with a 3.6 yards per carry average and he has struggled in pass protection, limiting West’s versatility. West will continue to rotate with Crowell, but I do not see West as more than a nuisance that has limited flex appeal in non-PPR leagues this season.

Ben Tate, RB FA

Now subject to the NFL waiver claim process, Tate will likely have multiple claims put in for him given his roughly $266,000 remaining salary – that makes it harder to speculate where he goes, but we can investigate some interesting fits (in no particular order):

Indianapolis Colts

This makes a lot of sense as Ahmad Bradshaw was lost for the year and Trent Richardson has continued to disappoint his real and fantasy teams. Tate could immediately slide into the number two spot on this team (sorry Dan Herron) and provide a change of pace… if you consider slower to slow a change of pace. The motivation of the playoffs and a veteran offense could be the type of environment that could help Tate have some fantasy relevance in 2014.

Waiver Claim Probability (WCP) – 9 out of 10

Denver Broncos

Another playoff bound team riddled with backfield injuries. The aggravation of Montee Ball’s injury delays his return while Ronnie Hillman will be on the shelf for the next month or more – that leaves C.J. Anderson and little else while jockeying for playoff position. Tate is an option for a team that could use the depth short-term while their remaining players heal. His outlook here is limited to that short timeframe and may not be worth the headache.

WCP – 5 out of 10

Miami Dolphins

Losing Knowshon Moreno in week six was a tough blow to the Dolphins, although they have continued their march towards the playoffs. Lamar Miller is roughly 50 carries away from his career high with no other running back on the team representing a consistent threat the way Moreno was. Tate could be the power back to complement Miller while displaying a versatile skillset that other Miami backs are lacking. I like the fit here in what could be a productive rotation.

WCP – 7 out of 10

New England Patriots

While they do like collecting running backs and Stevan Ridley is out for the year, this seems unlikely. Tate would struggle to fit in here given his issues with usage in Cleveland and Belichick seems to be doing fine with retreads and rotations.

WCP – 2 out of 10

Atlanta Falcons

Losing Antone Smith for the year was tough given his big play ability, but the Falcons are somehow in the division hunt and could use some help in their stagnant backfield. Tate is capable of outperforming the ghost of Steven Jackson and providing some of the power running they lost with the decline of Michael Turner.

WCP – 6 out of 10

Oakland Raiders

Have to include them given the ineptitude of the running game and the willingness of the front office to give any old running back a chance. I wouldn’t be shocked if they put in a claim or tried to sign him.

WCP – 3 out of 10

Baltimore Ravens

With Tate’s old coach now the offensive coordinator in Baltimore, this could happen. Gary Kubiak has an elite run blocking unit and could use a better rotational complement to Justin Forsett. The adjustment to the offense would be easy and Tate could thrive here beyond 2014.

WCP – 8 out of 10

Arizona Cardinals

Maybe a long shot, but give it a chance. Andre Ellington has been battling a foot issue all year and while he has been very effective, there is little relief for him (no other Arizona back has more than 20 carries on the year). They have tried and failed with several power backs this year so Tate fits the mold of the type of back they would be interested in. This is not a great run blocking team but they have moved the ball effectively and could be a good landing spot for Tate.

WCP – 4 out of 10

Share your thoughts on where Tate could end up and how the Browns running situation shakes out.