|Tate was just 58 yards shy of 1,000 yards last season. (Getty Images)|
In March, running back Arian Foster, a former undrafted free agent, signed a five-year, $43.5 million contract extension with the Houston Texans. It was a well deserved raise; since coming into the league in 2009, he's rushed for 3,097 yards and 29 touchdowns. That includes a 2010 rushing title and another 1,224 yards (4.4 YPC) last season.
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But the Texans' other back, Ben Tate, managed 942 yards on 108 fewer carries (5.4 YPC) in 2011. In fact, according to Football Outsiders, in terms of total efficiency and value per play, Tate ranked higher than Foster. He'll also make substantially less than his teammate. As Dale Robertson of Houston Chronicle writes, "Foster's new contract will pay him roughly $18 million, which means he's going to bank more than twice as much per game as Tate will make all season." The former 2010 third-rounder is set to pull down $490,000 in 2012.
And while Tate admits he sometimes thinks about the money, he won't let the pay difference affect his game or his relationship with Foster.
“I'm going to keep riding the wave, working hard every single day to get better,” Tate said according to Robertson. “I feel like I'm one of the better running backs in the league right now, definitely (in the) top 10. Adrian's getting paid the big bucks, but you know what? My time is coming. …
“I like Arian,” Tate continued. “We get along. Why should I be jealous of him for doing well? I've always been taught not to be a hater. Why should I hate on Arian for doing what he was supposed to do when he got a chance? I got hurt. He had the whole year to make big things happen. He took advantage of his big opportunity. When I get my opportunity, I've got to do the same thing.”
Tate missed the 2010 season after breaking his ankle in the preseason and Foster ran for more yards from scrimmage than anyone else in the league. Last season, when Foster missed two of the first three games with a balky hamstring, Tate took advantage, rushing for 301 yards. That said, the former Auburn star was noncommittal when asked if there was room for both players in the backfield over the long term.
“I can't answer that," he said before addding “But this is where I'm at right now, and this where I'm going to focus all my efforts. When I get (the football), I've got to make the best of it. I can't worry about how many times I get the ball. If I get it twice, I've got to make something happen twice. I've got to keep my head down, my nose to the (grindstone) and keep working. I can't worry about anything else.”
Today's NFL might be as much about the evolution of the passing game as it is the backs-by-committee rushing philosophy, but in the case of the latter, that typically means one high-priced back paired with a young, low-priced alternative. Given limited salary-cap resources, teams aren't willing to allocate big-money contracts to two running backs when a) they're relatively easy to replace and b) there are harder-to-fill positions elsewhere on the roster where said money could be better used.
One thing that won't happen, however: the Texans won't be trading Tate to the Steelers for wide receiver Mike Wallace, who's currently holding out for one of those aforementioned big-money contracts. We mention this because, thanks to our good friend Texans' blogger Stephanie Stradley, it apparently was a topic on local sports talk radio. Her response pretty much says it all:
Please stop listening to vomity sports talk radio. There's no $ for Wallace RT— Stephanie Stradley (@StephStradley) July 30, 2012
@closest2thepin: what do you think? Tate for mike Wallace?
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