AFC North: Vonta Leach Could Stay with Ravens. Ray Rice & Less Carries
By Jason Marcum
Feb 3, 2013; New Orleans, LA, USA; Baltimore Ravens fullback Vonta Leach (44) leaps over San Francisco 49ers cornerback Tarell Brown (25) in the second quarter in Super Bowl XLVII at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Jack Gruber-USA TODAY Sports
ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports it will be a major upset if free agent fullback Vonta Leach doesn’t sign with the Miami Dolphins. Leach was cut by the Baltimore Ravens this offseason after the team decided his $4 million cap hit was too much for the Ravens to afford. Leach has been a first-team All-Pro in three straight seasons and graded out as Pro Football Focus’ top-rated lead blocker last year. Before releasing Leach on June 11, the Ravens proposed the Pro Bowler a one-year, $2 million contract loaded with incentives.
Leach has acknowledged that he’s still talking to Ravens, and a return isn’t out of the question just yet:
"Me and [Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome], we talk once a week and [we’ll] see how everything goes. He knows the process and me and him are going to let the process play out. If I’m back with the Ravens, there’s still no hard feelings. They let me catch the market and see what my market value is.You never can be surprised by anything that can happen in this league, man,” he said.I didn’t get released from Baltimore because of my play. It was just because my salary cap number. The thing is, when you talk about salary cap, once the fullback starts making a lot of money, they are the first one that probably is asked to take a pay cut and stuff. But just like I said, I have no hard feelings with Baltimore or with the Ravens’ organization. It’s first class and everything was good."
Ravens running back Ray Rice has won a Super Bowl and has gone to three Pro Bowls, but in the prime of his career, he’s not worrying about racking up carries like most backs would be. Instead, he’s more interested in sharing the load with fellow RB Bernard Pierce, as he knows less carries now will result in a longer career at a position where players tend to break down the quickest:
"Going into Year 6, you have to be smart. I know I have a lot of football left , but the name of the game is longevity for me now. I’ve proved I can be a Pro Bowl player and I still know I can go out there and make many more Pro Bowls. Part of the lesson you learn is being smart and realizing you can’t go out there and do it all on your own. For me, I’m in a great situation, I’ve a got a young back in Bernard Pierce and we can share the load. But I know when it’s a crucial situation, like a fourth down or a big third down, I go out there and make as many plays as a I can."
The Pittsburgh Steelers’ secondary is among the league’s best, as they’ve led the NFL in fewest passing yards allowed the past two seasons. Despite an aging and banged-up Troy Polamalu coupled with the loss of Keenan Lewis, cornerback Ike Taylor feels this defensive backfield won’t have any dropoff in 2013:
"This is one of the most athletic secondaries that I ever played with. It goes (Super Bowl winning years of) 2008, 2005 and to be determined with this one. But let me tell you: This one has the potential, and I don’t care how old we are. We were No. 1 last year, but we can be even better this year."
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