He saw his role in the offense diminish significantly as the Ravens shifted away from traditional two-back running sets, and he is unsure that he will be back with the Ravens next season.
“I’m going to sit down with them over the next couple of days,” Leach said. “Obviously I wasn’t in the offense a whole lot this year. A lot of factors factored into that. I think I can still play in this game. I still got a lot of good tread on my tires.”
Leach, 32, just finished his 10th NFL season. He is one of the best lead blockers in the NFL, but opportunities for a hard-hitting fullback are limited in the NFL because of the continued evolution into a pass-first league.
“It is tough for a fullback, but there are still some teams that use a fullback and I think I could play probably another one or two years,” he said.
Leach signed his current two-year contract in July, after he garnered limited interest on the free-agent market. The Ravens initially cut him after winning the Super Bowl, but then brought him back on a reduced salary.
When he first re-signed with the Ravens, Leach appeared to have a large role within the offense. As the season wore on and the running game struggled, the Ravens started using more single-back formations.
“Vonta’s role changed when we moved the offense away from a two-back foundation early on, and the reason we got away from that was because it wasn’t working,” Head Coach John Harbaugh said. “We started off with a two-back foundation, and we couldn’t run the ball well enough to base the offense on the run game. And I think we came to that realization, and we had to move away from it, which took Vonta off the field more.”
In the final five games, Leach saw just 33 offensive snaps. He played just 19.5 percent of the offensive snaps over the course of the season. As he cleaned out his locker Monday, Leach indicated that the decision to give him a limited number of snaps was surprising after the Ravens gave him a contract reportedly worth $3.75 million.
“It always crosses your mind, but at the same time you just have to understand that sometimes stuff changes and you just have to roll with the change,” he said. “It was very frustrating, but at the same time I was still here, I was ready to go whenever they needed me. Just like I said, it’s part of the business. When a team is changing the scheme and changing what they do, you just have to roll with it.”
“Vonta’s biggest role this year probably was from aleadership standpoint,” Harbaugh added. “He was a leader, and I would have loved to have him on the field more, but it didn’t play out that way. We planned on him being out there more, but it didn’t play out that way.”
The Ravens’ running game struggled with and without Leach, as the unit ranked 30th in the NFL by averaging 83 rushing yards per game. They also finished last in the NFL averaging 3.1 yards per carry.
“I wouldn’t necessarily say that it was one thing that went wrong,” Leach said. “There were times when the running backs and offensive line weren’t on the same page. There [were] other times where it just wasn’t working. We have to go back and overall just look at the things and see what went wrong.”
Leach has played long enough in the NFL to know that it’s hard for players to anticipate exactly what to expect going into the offseason. Last year he was cut and re-signed over the span of six weeks, and he said that his preference would be to stay with the Ravens.
“If they had a role for me, ideally I’d want to come back here, I want to be back,” Leach said. “But I understand that this is a business and you know how it goes.”