Yesterday, news came out that the Baltimore Ravens couldn’t reach an agreement to restructure fullback Vonta Leach’s contract. Due to this, they were either going to trade him or release him the following day (today). Now, the Ravens have made their move, and have released Leach.
Also yesterday, Leach tweeted “Thank
ravens organization for a great two years. I came here and did what we set out to do and that’s win the Super Bowl. My time here is up but what we accomplished, we will be forever linked. Thank the fans for accepting me and my family to Bmore.” This tweet, actually two due to length, confirmed the news that Leach would no longer be with the Ravens.
“We’ve had lots of discussion in the past week with Vonta, and both parties agreed that it was best to terminate Vonta’s contract,” said Ravens’ GM Ozzie Newsome. “He added to our toughness and will to win, plus he provided leadership. He’s a good football player.”
This move will save the Ravens $3 million in cap room this year. Leach had a cap hit of $4.33 million for this season but part of his signing bonus will still count against the Ravens cap this year ($1.33 million). With this $3 million coming off the books, the Ravens will have about $6.6 million in cap room. However, the Ravens still have to sign first round draft pick, S Matt Elam. This is expected to take up $1.23 million in cap, leaving the Ravens will about $5.37 million in cap room.
The Ravens signed Leach back in 2011 to a 3-year deal worth $11 million, which made him the highest paid fullback in the NFL. Leach was only able to play out two years of that deal.
With Leach on the team, the Ravens ranked 10th and 11th in rushing. Running back Ray Rice is known to be a big fan of Leach’s blocking as Leach is considered by most people to be the best fullback in the league. The 31-year old is a crushing blocker who isn’t afraid to take on any defender. Leach was able to clear the way for Rice on many occasions over the last two seasons.
It wasn’t just Rice who was a big fan of Leach. Whenever Leach got the ball, Ravens fans would yell “LEEEEEEACH,” showing their affection for him. Fans also would do this for Todd Heap and Ed Reed, who were both fan favorites and are Ravens legends.
On offense, Leach didn’t just block though. Before coming to the Ravens, Leach had 3 career carries for a total of 3 yards and 2 touchdowns. WIth Baltimore, Leach ran the ball 21 times for 67 yards and 1 touchdown. Also, Leach had 12 first downs on his rushes compared to 2 when he was a Houston Texan. In the passing game, the Ravens liked to run play-action and have Leach run out to the flats and catch the ball. This play would result in easy yards most of the time as the fullback is the last guy that defenses are worried about touching the ball. With the Ravens, Leach had 36 catches for 212 yards, 0 touchdowns, and 10 first downs.
The writing had been on the wall for Leach for awhile now. In the Super Bowl, the Ravens only had Leach on the field for 22 snaps, which was 42% of their offensive plays. Once the season was over, many people speculated that Leach could be cut due to his contract. While he is the best fullback in the league, $4.33 million is quite a bit to be paying a player that only sees the field for about half of the offense’s plays. Lastly, the Ravens drafted a fullback in the forth round of the draft this year in Kyle Juszczyk. For a little while, there was thought that the Ravens could keep Leach and Juszczyk on the roster as Juszczyk is more of an H-back than a fullback.
Juszczyk can play all over the field, as a tight end, fullback, or a slot receiver, hence why he is called an H-back, not a fullback. Last season, he was Harvard’s leading receiver, which shows his versatility.
The timing of the release of Leach is questionable as free agency is all but over as most free agents have already signed with other teams. Also, the Ravens released wide receiver Anquan Boldin as he was making $6 million and the Ravens couldn’t afford that with their offseason plans. If the Ravens cut Leach earlier, the Ravens wouldn’t have had to get rid of Boldin. Yes, the Ravens would have not been able to sign a player like Daryl Smith, but the Ravens would still have their leading receiver from last year, who played even better in the postseason. Now the Ravens wide receiver corps is Torrey Smith, Jacoby Jones, and a bunch of young guys who have little to no experience and aren’t expected to fully take over Boldin’s production. Plus, Jones has never been a number 2 receiver before.
Lastly, this move continues the overhaul of the Ravens roster after winning the Super Bowl. Leach becomes the 9th Ravens’ starter from that game to no long be with the team.
With the open roster spot, the Ravens signed tight end Billy Bajema. Bajema played for the Ravens last season and was their third tight end on the depth chart and came in when an extra blocker was needed.