The Cleveland Browns are getting a little more serious about free agency. Really serious.
The team confirmed several reports Thursday night that running back Ben Tate was in town to visit with the team and would be in the team’s facility on Friday. Tate wants to be a feature back; the Browns lack one. Tate has been considered one of the best fits on the market for the Browns; he averaged 4.7 yards per carry in his career.
Tate is a big back with ability and for a couple years he and Arian Foster formed one of the best tandems in the league in Houston. But Foster was the No. 1 guy, and Tate wants to be.
The Browns can give him that opportunity, but of course any contract signing comes down to money.
As highly regarded as Tate is, ESPN’s Bill Polian gave him a C grade on his free-agent tracking chart, same as he gave Peyton Hillis.
Polian calls Tate a “confrontational runner” with a physical style that can lead to injury. He has never played a full, 16-game season, missing time to ankle, hamstring, foot and rib injuries.
“He is a little bit of a teaser because you are always looking for him to have a breakout year but he never quite lives up to his potential,” Polian opined.
Earlier in the day the Browns signed tight end Jim Dray, whose reputation is as a blocking tight end. He showed pass-catching ability, but Dray played last season in Arizona, where coach Bruce Arians makes no secret he wants his tight ends to be blockers first.
That could mesh well with Jordan Cameron, who is more of a receiver first -- though Cameron did work on and improve his blocking as last season progressed.
The Browns also signed Cincinnati receiver Andrew Hawkins to an offer sheet, and the Bengals are not expected to match.
If all goes well, the Browns could conceivably add a starting linebacker and safety, a backup cornerback, a backup tight end, a slot receiver with speed and a starting running back in the first week of free agency.
And the draft planning has barely begun.