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Decision time nearing for Vonta Leach; Ravens remain strong possibility

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Pro Bowl fullback Vonta Leach is nearing a decision and could pick a team as soon as today, with a potential reunion with the Super Bowl champion Ravens remaining the most viable scenario, according to league sources with knowledge of the situation.

Leach, 31, has spent this week contemplating his options, which haven't been extensive since he was cut by the Ravens in May when a compromise couldn't be reached on his contract.

Leach has remained in touch with general manager Ozzie Newsome and maintained an open dialogue.

"Of course, Vonta likes the Ravens," agent Ralph Vitolo recently told The Baltimore Sun "Why wouldn't he? Maybe he ends up back there. Who knows? Until it happens, there's no sense in pure speculation."

Rather than restructure a $3 million salary in the final year of a three-year, $11 million contract to reduce a $4.33 million salary-cap figure  for the 2013 fiscal year, the Ravens terminated Leach's contract. If Leach returns, playing-time incentives are expected to be part of the structure.

Leach visited Miami, but he wasn't offered a contract as the Dolphins are still in evaluation mode with their younger fullbacks. That was the only free-agent visit Leach has taken.

He was offered a one-year veteran minimum deal from the New York Giants, who lost fullback Henry Hynoski to a knee injury during minicamp, but that isn't what Leach is seeking.

Leach has talked to the Houston Texans, his previous employer, but they have fullback Greg Jones on the roster and haven't made an aggressive push to re-sign Leach.

If the Ravens don't bring back Leach, they already have a replacement on the roster. They can go with fourth-round rookie Kyle Juszczyk, a versatile, pass-catching fullback from Harvard.

Juszczyk and Leach have much different playing styles. Leach is a punishing lead blocker feared by linebackers while Juszczyk would still need to establish himself at the NFL level.

Leach added to the Ravens' toughness quotient as an intimidating presence, but the fullback doesn't get significant playing time in offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell's offense or most NFL offenses these days.

The Ravens made it clear when they released Leach that they weren't ruling out bringing him back down the road.  

"He added to our toughness and will to win, plus he provided leadership," Newsome said in a statement in June. "He’s a good football player. There could be an opportunity for him to return to the Ravens once he explores the free agent market, and we could revisit this before or during training camp.”

awilson@baltsun.com
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Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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