The purge of veterans from the Baltimore Ravens Super Bowl champion roster continued on Tuesday as the team announced that they had terminated the contract of All-Pro fullback Vonta Leach.
Leach joined the Ravens in 2011, signing a three-year deal worth $11 million. In 32 games for the Ravens, Leach played in 1,026 of a possible 2,171 offensive snaps for a playing-time percent of 47.3 percent, and his skills as a blocker earned him Pro Bowl and first-team All-Pro honors after each season. Leach was a Pro Bowler and first-team All-Pro in 2010, his final season with the Houston Texans.
However, Leach turns 32 in November and was scheduled to earn $3 million in base salary that would have become fully guaranteed had he been on the roster in Week 1. The Ravens signaled that they were leaning towards going younger (and therefore less expensive) at the position when they used a fourth-round pick in the 2013 NFL draft on Harvard fullback Kyle Juszczyk, who is scheduled to earn $705,584 in 2013, of which only $300,584 is guaranteed.
Leach saw the writing on the wall, declined a pay cut and on Monday night announced on Twitter that he was being let go.
"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," wrote Leach. "My time 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."
By releasing Leach, the Ravens will save $3 million in cash and cap space, though some of that has been used to sign blocking tight end Billy Bajema.
With NFL teams moving towards tight ends and away from pure fullbacks, it is doubtful that the 6-foot, 250-pound Leach will find a team willing to pay him anything close to the $3 million in base salary he was scheduled to earn from the Ravens in the final season of his most recent contract. Leach could get a deal that could allow him to recoup some of the earnings via incentives, but in all likelihood, he will sign a "minimum salary benefit" contract, where Leach will earn the league minimum ($840,000) base salary with a cap number of between $555,000 and $620,000, depending on whether or not he receives a signing or roster bonus.
That deal could come from the Ravens, who have not closed the door on bringing Leach back.
"There could be an opportunity for him to return to the Ravens once he explores the free agent market, and we could re-visit this before or during training camp," Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome said on Tuesday.
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