There’s no question that Vonta Leach is a terrific fullback, good guy, and positive clubhouse influence. Unlike many, I don’t have a big issue with the Texans making the decision to let Vonta sign with the Ravens, instead of matching the contract offer.
Let’s start with the facts – Leach is getting $11 million from Baltimore over the next 3 years, with $6 million of that guaranteed. Credit to him and agent Ralph Vitolo, because that’s an absolute boatloat for a fullback in the NFL in 2011.
Clearly, Houston prioritized signing defensive players above everything else. I don’t think anyone really questions the signings of Johnathan Joseph and Danieal Manning to shore up the league’s worst pass defense. Perhaps more controversially, the Texans chose to re-sign WR Jacoby Jones, backup QB Matt Leinart, and T Rashad Butler.
We’ve had some debates on the air about the money the team spent on Jones. Could they have allowed him to leave, spent the money to re-sign Leach, and brought in another wide receiver?
For me, I think Jacoby has a much more economical contract than Vonta Leach. Jones is signed for $10M, Vonta $11M, but Leach is getting double the money in guarantees (3 versus 6). If you wanted to keep your fullback, you would have to give him that deal, and find a way to squeeze in a wide receiver.
I’ve always thought that Leach is a flat-out better football player than Jones, but the tricky thing is that it’s usually easier to replace a fullback. I think the median FB on the street is closer to Vonta’s level than the unemployed WR is to Jacoby’s level.
Plus, if you look closely at the 2010 season, Jones did show improvement over the course of the year. With Andre Johnson hampered and/or injured over the last 4 games, the former Lane College standhout had 5 receptions in every game, going for more than 70 receiving yards in 2.
Ultimately, the gamble that Rick Smith and Gary Kubiak are taking is that they can seemlessly plug in a fullback to pave the way for Arian Foster in the span of a month. You can’t resign every player in the salary cap age, so sacrifices have to be made. Hopefully, the next FB can play close to the level Vonta produced at over the last few years.