Marcio Sanchez/Associated Press
This is tough. How can you not love Vonta Leach? In many ways, he represents what the Ravens are all about: physicality, dominance and the ability to bully opposing defenses with a punishing ground game.
But the Ravens have had to question the value of a one-dimensional fullback in their last two offseasons.
Like last year, this is purely about money, and the Ravens have been open about the idea of bringing him back at a cheaper salary, based on what Ozzie Newsome told Garrett Downing of BaltimoreRavens.com:
Vonta and Jameel are two of our most important players over the last few seasons, helping us to the playoffs and giving the Ravens the Super Bowl win after the 2012 season. There could come a point later on when we would consider bringing back Vonta and Jameel. They are our types of players.
Not only is Leach a valuable blocker, but the hiring of offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak—who has a history with Leach and is one of the few coaches who uses fullbacks—makes a reunion even more likely.
That doesn’t mean the Ravens should do it.
As tremendous as Leach has been, this isn’t even about him. It’s about Kyle Juszczyk.
Last year’s fourth-round pick out of Harvard wasn’t ready to shoulder lead-blocking duties in his first professional season, which prompted the Ravens to re-sign Leach.
After a year of seasoning, however, Juszczyk is ready for a bigger role.
More importantly, it looks like the coaching staff is prepared to give him a larger chunk of the workload, according to Ryan Mink of BaltimoreRavens.com. Here’s what Juszczyk revealed about his role in the new offense:
[Head Coach John Harbaugh] expects a lot and I expect a lot from myself as well. I’m excited to be more involved next year, and I’m going to do everything I can to make sure it works. [The coaches] all have the same idea that I’m really going to be a guy that can move around to a lot of different positions. I can be flexed out, I can be in the backfield when I need to be in short-yardage and goal-line situations. It’s a lot of what I expected to do last year but we never got to it.
Juszczyk is going to be a downgrade in terms of plain bulldozing, but he brings unique versatility to the table and can develop into a security blanket and reliable weapon for Joe Flacco in an offense that will take any playmaker it can get.
There will be growing pains, but there is no teacher like real experience and live reps in game action.
Juszczyk excelled on special teams last year as the lead blocker on returns, demonstrating toughness and physicality. Those traits will serve him well as he transitions to being a bigger part of the offense, and his potential is fascinating.
The Ravens need to see what he can give them, and that’s the reason for letting Leach find a new home.