The Baltimore Ravens were unable to find a team interested in trading for Vonta Leach and have proceeded to release the fullback.
Adam Schefter of ESPN reported the news:
After failing to find a trade partner, Ravens now have released FB Vonta Leach.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) June 11, 2013
Leach spent the past two seasons with Baltimore, which was the third team of his NFL career. He served as the lead blocker for Ray Rice after signing a contract that made him the highest-paid player at the position.
Commenting on the roster move, Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome said Leach's career with the team might not be over. He leaves the door open for a possible return after the fullback tests the free-agent waters, via the Ravens' Twitter account:
Ozzie Newsome on Leach: “There could be an opportunity for him to return to the Ravens once he explores the free agent market.”— Baltimore Ravens (@Ravens) June 11, 2013
The nature of Newsome's comments seem to suggest it's purely a financial decision, as CBS Sports' Jason La Canfora points out. The Ravens weren't prepared to pay him at the level he signed for two years ago, but they sound willing to bring him back into the fold at a more favorable cap price.
Leach, a team leader, was to make $3M this season with a cap hit in excess of $4M. Reed, Lewis, Pollard, Birk, Ayanbedajo among those gone— Jason La Canfora (@JasonLaCanfora) June 10, 2013
In a corresponding move, the team brought back tight end Billy Bajema:
After cutting Vonta Leach, the Ravens have re-signed veteran TE Billy Bajema.— Baltimore Ravens (@Ravens) June 11, 2013
Leach becomes the latest member of the Super Bowl-winning roster to exit Baltimore, with Ray Lewis, Ed Reed and Anquan Boldin being the most notable names to depart. If the Ravens are going to repeat, it will be with a new-look group.
Was this the right move for the Ravens?
If Leach doesn't return to the Ravens, the team will turn to rookie Kyle Juszczyk to fill the void. Baltimore selected the Harvard star in the fourth round, likely with an eye on potentially losing Leach.
The three-time Pro Bowler remains one of the premier fullbacks in the NFL. Whether a franchise is willing to pay him top dollar in an era of high-octane offenses where fullbacks aren't a top priority is the question that remains to be answered.
Leach responded to his release on Twitter:
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— VontaLeach44 (@vleach44) June 10, 2013
here is up but what we accomplished, we will be forever linked. Thank the fans for accepting me and my family to Bmore. #newchapter#samegoal— VontaLeach44 (@vleach44) June 10, 2013