McClain and Leach Released
Earlier today, the Baltimore Ravens announced that they had released inside linebacker Jameel McClain and fullback Vonta Leach.
Neither of these two moves comes as a real surprise as both of them had decently high salary cap numbers this season and these numbers were higher than their production warranted. When I predicted potential cap casualties for the team, both of them showed up on the list.
Cutting McClain will save the Ravens $3.2 million in cap room and the release of Leach saves $1.75 million. Combined, this saves the Ravens $4.95 million in cap room this season.
McClain has played his entire professional career in Baltimore after being signed as an undrafted free agent following the 2008 NFL Draft. Over the
last four seasons, he was a starter.
His best season came in 2011 when he recorded 84 tackles, one sack and his only career interception. That offseason, he was signed to a three-year deal as a free agent.
Late in the 2012 season, he suffered a serious neck injury that initially put his playing career in question. However, he recovered and only missed six games this season.
When he returned this season, he started all 10 games and recorded 52 tackles and one forced fumble.
According to Pro Football Focus, he was the 34th best inside linebacker this season (out of 55). His main struggles came in run defense.
Arthur Brown, a second-round pick last year, and Josh Bynes, an exclusive rights free agent (which basically guarantees he will be back with the Ravens) will likely compete for McClain’s starting spot. Daryl Smith––the other starting inside linebacker last season––is a free agent so what happens with him will determine whether Brown and Bynes will compete for one spot or be the two starters.
There is a chance that McClain could return to Baltimore on a cheaper deal, but it is likely that he tests the open market first.
Both players had just one year left on their contract and were on the Ravens’ Super Bowl winning team in 2012 season.
Leach was signed as a free agent before the 2011 season and helped pave the way for running back Ray Rice and others over the last three seasons. Last offseason, he was released and then later re-signed to a two-year contract that he was currently on.
This season, his playing time was reduced––230 snaps compared to 579 the year prior––due to changes in the Ravens’ offense. As a whole, the team struggled to run the ball and this led to more passing. Being a road-grading fullback, this left him out of the offense.
In the 2013 NFL Draft, the team acquired his replacement in the fourth round. Kyle Juszczyk was selected to take over for Leach. This led to Leach’s initial release, but he was brought back when Juszczyk failed to impress in mini camp.
Now that Leach is gone, Juszczyk will take over the starting job at fullback. He is less of a run blocker and more of a versatile H-back. This means that he can move around between tight end and fullback. At Harvard, he played often in the slot as a tight end. This versatility should help the Ravens’ offense be more explosive this season under new offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak.
Overall, these two moves made sense for the Ravens as they freed up $4.95 million in cap space by releasing two players who overpaid.