How will the Ravens’ running game look without Vonta Leach?

Ray Rice, Vonta Leach

Unable to agree on a restructured contract with the Ravens, fullback Vonta Leach now finds himself unemployed. He appeared to say his goodbyes to the Ravens on Twitter this evening. In the NFL, it’s not often that the best player at their position doesn’t have job security, but that was the case for Leach, who was underutilized despite his $3 million base salary.

Leach was a locker room leader and extremely well respected amongst his peers. Cutting a three-time Pro Bowl player who hasn’t declined on the field seems atypical, but it was a business decision for all parties involved – even Leach.

Once Jim Caldwell took over for Cam Cameron as offensive coordinator, questions surfaced about Leach’s involvement in the offense moving forward. Leach had already played in under 50 percent of offensive snaps (41 percent to be exact), and his role decreased under Caldwell. If Leach wanted to remain with the Ravens in 2013, it seemed that he would have to take a pay cut. All the leverage moved towards the side of the franchise after drafting Harvard FB Kyle Juszczyk in the fourth round this past April.

Leach gave defenders a taste of their own medicine, often delivering bone crushing blows while blocking for his Pro Bowl backfield-mate, Ray Rice. While Leach will be missed in Baltimore, most of the concern with his release has to revolve around what type of impact it will have on Rice – who was just as much of a friend as a teammate to Leach.

Rice will likely crack the top 15 on NFL Network’s Top 100 Players of 2012 countdown, and I would expect him to be poised for a repeat performance, even without Leach. However, it may be in a different way than we’re accustomed to.

With Rice and Bernard Pierce both in the backfield and Leach not added in to tip off which plays are runs, opposing defenses literally have to be on their toes at all times.

Last month, Rice stated his intentions to become more involved in the Ravens passing game, and that may be by default given Leach’s absence. Rice hasn’t had fewer than 60 catches in a season since his rookie year, but his involvement as a target for Joe Flacco may evolve even more in 2013.

Without Leach’s protection, Rice becomes a vulnerable target as a runner, and his body may begin to break down if he can’t protect himself from defenses piling up on him play after play. Pierce may not be as muscular, but he’ll likely be counted on more for the  power running game and to absorb more hits.

Unless you’re related to either Pierce or Juszczyk, you don’t likely believe that they’re going to be more effective in the power running game than Rice and Leach were in years past. However, Pierce and Juszczyk are inexpensive and can help take some of the workload from Rice, who will look to stay fresh as long as possible into the grueling season.

Cutting Leach may not have been the most popular option around Baltimore, but it was necessary considering the financial constraints against the team with limited salary cap flexibility. The Ravens won a Super Bowl with Leach standing on the sidelines more often than not; I’m fine with the release even though I think they’ll miss his contributions in the locker room.

If someone was going to be consuming $3 million per season and only on the field 41 percent of the time, most would likely chose it to be spent on a wide receiver not currently on the roster.

Leach was fun to watch, but only at a certain price. His agents have likely already had discussions with other teams (not legal but it always happens). I’d fully expect Leach to be in a new uniform very soon, or else why would he have been so confident to turn down a Ravens counter offer?

Which of these departed Ravens will you miss the most?
Ed Reed (25%)
Vonta Leach (7%)
Anquan Boldin (60%)
Paul Kruger (3%)
Dannell Ellerbe (3%)
Bernard Pollard (2%)
This poll has completed. Thank you for voting.

9 Raves on “How will the Ravens’ running game look without Vonta Leach?

  1. playboy52 on said:

    I love to see vonta back next year but it doesn’t make sense to have 2 fullbacks on ya roster and u drafted one pretty high up in the draft especially when u barely used the one u been had last year now u got more cap space to possibly bring in or trade for a receiver or use it to sign oher or pitta to a long term deal another move thats gonna payoff for the ravens

  2. Rumor Ray on said:

    I will miss Leach as a Raven, however I do not really feel that the impact of losing him will affect the overall team. When you put Torry and Jacoby wide, Have Pitta in the slot and Ray and Bernard in the back field the Ravens will create Chaos

  3. Rxdoxx on said:

    Just a quick tweak to keep a true perspective
    “$3 million per season and only on the field 41 percent of the time”
    that is only 41% of the offense, couple that with the D-time and it could be 20% (add back in for any ST).
    Just sayin’ that 41% seems more reasonable until we look at the entire game clock and realize from a team perspective that is $3mil for 20+% of game activity

    But we will miss him for sure.

    • Sam on said:

      If you put it that way, Joe costs $120 million for 6 years of <50% clock time. What a waste of money!

      An offensive player only has offensive time count for him, same as D

  4. True on said:

    Vonta Leach is going to be traded right? The way you talk about him receiving offers from other teams already makes me believe we’re going to get someone or something for him. I don’t want Leach to go at all, if we release him without getting something for him I’d be so angry. He’s hands down one of my favorite players in the NFL.

  5. IrieMon on said:

    They already gave his number to Obama. “Mr. President” will be blocking for Ray this year. No really though, Leeeeeeaaach it was fun while it lasted but President aside, it’s time for JUUUUUUIIIIIIICE!!

  6. paulie on said:

    I think the writing was on the wall after the 4th round of the draft. Leach may be the best at what he does, but Kyle Juszczyk is so much more versatile. He will likely never hit the hole as a FB with the authority of a Vonta Leach but he can do well enough. He can do what Leach never really could in that he can be a H back or move to tight end or move into the slot as a legitimate receiving threat.
    I wish Vonta well but wonder who might be able to afford $3 M for a largely one dimensional player in their backfield.

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