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Ben Tate (ribs) sent to Houston Texans' injured reserve

Ben Tate's 92-yard performance at Indianapolis last week might have been his last with the Houston Texans.

The team announced Wednesday that Arian Foster's longtime backup has been placed on season-ending injured reserve. Tate cracked four ribs at mid-season and since has cracked a fifth.

The Texans will roll with Dennis Johnson as the starting tailback for the final two games of a lost season.

Although Tate understandably lost some playmaking ability in the second half of the season, he undoubtedly impressed potential suitors with his toughness and durability.

At least twice in the past four months, Tate has made it crystal clear that he's seeking a featured back role -- and the attendant mega contract -- entering free agency in 2014.

"My time in this game is limited. I'm 25. I'm in my prime for the next three years," Tate recently told Robert Klemko of "So I want to be somewhere where I can utilize that. I've said it before, I don't work this hard to be anyone's backup. That's just not why I play this game."

Tate is set up to become the best mix of age, talent and demonstration to hit the running-back market since Michael Turner signed a six-year, $34.5 million contract with the Falcons in 2008.

The Texans have several tough contract decisions to make in the coming offseason. Near the top of the list will be the future of a once rock-solid backfield. Will the front office consider dumping Foster coming off back surgery, two years after handing him a $43.5 million contract? If so, they could make a run at re-signing Tate after all.

NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport reported on NFL Network's "Around The League Live" that sources believe Tate has played his last down in Houston. Rapoport said he's been told the Cleveland Browns are "one of several teams" that would be interested in signing the running back this offseason.

*The latest "Around The League Podcast" broke down the Cowboys' loss and every other Week 15 game. *

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