Much has been written about the Ravens’ decision to cut Vonta Leach for financial reasons, as well as about Leach’s exploration into free agency (Houston, New York Giants, Miami), and his standing offer to rejoin the Ravens. Leach is a great teammate, provides leadership, and is one of the best (if not the best) blocking fullbacks in the NFL. Many fans believe that Leach coming back to the Raven fold would be a boon (especially for a team that some think “lacks” toughness and leadership). Not only do I disagree with that notion, I believe that bringing him back would be detrimental.
For starters, if the rumored offer is accurate (a one-year, $2 million deal with incentives that, though tough to achieve, could potentially push the price tag to $3 million) this would mean the Ravens would be committing close to $2.5 million dollars to the fullback position- $2 million for Leach and close to $500,000 for rookie Kyle Juszczyk. That $2.5 million figure is equal to or exceeds the salaries of five of the top six fullbacks in the league. (Former Raven, Le’Ron McClain of the San Diego Chargers, with his $2.75 million salary, will be the highest-paid fullback for the 2013 season.) Committing $2.5 million to Leach and Juszczyk would mean that the Ravens would be spending 2% of their salary cap on the fullback position. Not only that, but the Ravens would be paying two players that amount of money. This brings me to my second point.
Bringing back Leach means that the Ravens would be devoting two roster spots to the fullback position to a team that already has a crowded backfield that includes Ray Rice, Bernard Pierce, Juszczyk, Anthony Allen, Damien Berry, and Bobby Rainey. Taking this point further, Leach’s roster spot would be better spent on a younger developing player. Would you rather have Leach, knowing exactly what you are getting, or a younger player? The following players are already on the roster bubble without Leach, so signing him would increase the chances that one of them gets cut: wide receivers David Reed and Aaron Mellette; offensive linemen Ramon Harewood, Ryan Jensen, and Jack Cornell; linebackers Josh Bynes, Adrian Hamilton and Bryan Hall; and secondary players Christian Thompson, Asa Jackson, Omar Brown, and Moe Lee.
What if the Ravens need to trade for a player (e.g., wide receiver) as training camp unfolds? The front office and coaching staff would need roster flexibility to do so, and re-signing Leach would hinder this. Moreover, his salary would be needed to pay this newly acquired player.
The Ravens’ remaining salary cap figure of $5.3 million is misleading. According to Brian McFarland of the Russell Street Report, it is more to the tune of $3.5 million. Once you factor in the entire 53 man roster, players on Injured Reserve, the Physically Unable to Perform, and practice squad players the $5.3 million takes quite a hit. With Leach on the roster, this would leave an estimated $1.5 to $2 million in salary cap space. (Although, that number could be higher if the Ravens reduce their standing offer to Leach, something I bet they have done or will do in light of the league’s lukewarm interest in Leach.)
Truth be told, the Ravens are moving away from using the standard fullback position. In fact, most of the NFL is. The Ravens only used Leach on 42% of their offensive snaps last year- less than Jah Reid and Ed Dickson. To offset the loss of Anquan Boldin, the Ravens will be using more three wide receiver sets and double tight end alignments. Juszczyk, who is more of an H-back, can fit this philosophy while also serving the more traditional fullback role. As Leach’s presence, or lack thereof, in the Super Bowl indicates (22 offensive snaps), he does not fit this profile whatsoever.
So, is Vonta Leach, and what he brings to the team, worth the money, the roster space, and an alteration to the overall offensive strategy of the 2013 Baltimore Ravens? No thank you.
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An avid sports fan, and a passionate Ravens fan. However, I don't always wear the purple-shaded glasses.