After Monday’s training camp practice, head coach John Harbaugh announced that fullback Vonta Leach would be returning to the Ravens.
ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that the deal was for two years, which was something that Leach had a problem finding on the open market, due to being 33 years old and playing one of the highest contact (and lowest demand) positions in football.
Leach’s addition comes at a perfect time for the Ravens, as their offense suffered a major blow when they lost tight end Dennis Pitta for the season to a dislocated hip. The combination of losing Pitta’s ten touchdown, 832-yard performance from last season and a noticeable lack of depth at the wide receiver position could force the hands of Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell into making the Ravens more run-heavy than they had hoped to be just a week ago.
Last season, the running back duo of Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce averaged 118.8 yards per game, which was good enough for 11th overall in the league. Not factored into those numbers was Rice’s catching ability out of the backfield, where he had another 566 yards and a touchdown receiving.
With one of the top running duos in the league accompanied by arguably the best fullback in football, shouldn’t the Ravens stick with a formula that has proven to be successful? It may not pay dividends on the $120 million investment into quarterback Joe Flacco, but it sure will help you win games.
After all, if Flacco were judged on wins versus his stats, would anyone nationally have a reason to criticize him? Flacco doesn’t care about gaudy stats, and the Ravens surely don’t either – just ask owner Steve Bisciotti about his bank account.
Leach’s signing is good news all around…well, unless you’re rookie fullback Kyle Juszczyk, whom the Ravens drafted in the fourth round (130th overall) as an insurance policy due to the uncertainty surrounding Leach’s future in Baltimore.
The financials of Leach’s contract haven’t been released as of yet, but if his deal is in the ballpark of the $2 million for 2013 that was reported by ESPN’s Chris Mortensen, the Ravens could have likely stuck it out with the rookie Juszczyk, and utilized the money for Leach to instead upgrade at receiver.
Now that Leach has officially signed with the Ravens, Juszczyk will have to focus on special teams contributions if he wants to find himself activated on game days. Juszczyk signed a four-year rookie deal prior to OTA’s and will certainly get his time to start in the NFL, but that now likely won’t come until after Leach is no longer a Raven.
The popular saying goes, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” and that’s certainly the case with the Ravens’ running game. On the other hand, there are plenty of cracks at wide receiver. Even though I thought that Leach’s signing was more of a luxury than a necessity, it should create a shift in focus for this offense – hopefully one that leads to continued success.
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