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Free Agent Fullbacks, Vonta Leach, and the Seahawks

Rob Staton of Seahawks Draft Blog reported recently that it's his understanding the Seahawks have interest in signing free agent All-Pro fullback Vonta Leach once the lockout is lifted. He'd kept this information close to his chest for the last several months, at first alluding to the idea but not mentioning names, but decided to go public with it on Monday (I'm not privy to the reason behind the timing of the news release). On Tuesday, Vonta Leach was interviewed by Adam Schein on Sirius radio and indicated that the Seahawks are on his short list of teams if he doesn't re-sign with the Texans. Awesome timing Rob!

The news is welcome in my book - I've been lobbying for a dedicated fullback this offseason to lead block for Marshawn Lynch and there is most likely no better lead-blocking fullback in the NFL than Leach. He helped spring Arian Foster to big runs last season on his way to a rushing title, and was named All-Pro so his body of work is there. Houston ran a zone blocking scheme last season, one that's similar to what the Seahawks will be running, so it's a logical fit here. I have no doubt he'd be a key addition to the Hawks running game.

The pros are that he's a seasoned top-tier veteran (was voted the best as his position last season (All-Pro), was on the Top 100 NFL Players list at #65), and is probably the most technical and effective blocking fullback we could find. 

On the other hand, he's nearing 30 years old, has only 3 career carries, and had only 8 receptions last season, so his versatility comes into question. I'm not saying that he's incapable of carrying the ball or being used in the passing game, I'm just saying he doesn't have a lot of experience with it. Finally, and most importantly, he'll be seeking to be the highest-paid fullback in the NFL this season.

Now, really, that means a number somewhere near 3 years, $12 million dollars. $4 million a year isn't going to break the bank but anytime you're paying an aging player the largest contract for his position, you have to pause for a moment and make sure it makes sense. I like the idea of Leach a lot - don't get me wrong, but I also think there are other, more versatile, and younger players out there that could come much cheaper.

I've talked about Marcel Reece here a lot and I still would love to see him in a Seahawks' uniform. Reece is only 26, and provides a versatility on the field that you can use for more than just lead blocking. He carried the ball 30 times in 2010 for the Raiders, averaging 4.1 yards per carry. A college receiver, he was active in the passing game as well, catching 25 passes for 333 yards and 3 touchdowns. (As a comparison, Justin Forsett caught 33 passes for 252 yards in 2010, Marshawn 21/138 0TDs, and Leon Washington 9/79 0TDs). So you are getting an excellent receiving option from your fullback, making teams match up and respect that option that much more. The man is 6'3 240 pounds and you could really get creative in certain sets with him. The Hawks like to use their tight ends on the wing at times and Reece gives you the option to roll your fullback out there as well. Either way, I like the idea of it.

If Reece isn't on their radar, and the Seahawks are looking for a pure blocking fullback but don't want to give Leach a big contract, Lawrence Vickers is another player that could come into the fray. He's 28 years old, and has been a solid lead-blocking fullback for the Browns (named an alternate to the Pro-Bowl in 2008). He appears to be unneeded and on the outs in Cleveland as they drafted Owen Marecic in this year's draft. He could be an option. 

Green Bay's John Kuhn could become an option as well. He has ties with John Schneider through Green Bay, and is a lunch-pail short yardage fullback with some versatility.

We'll address this more once the league-wide free agency period begins but wanted to give my take on the idea of Vonta Leach in a Hawks uniform. In short - I'd welcome the move. I think he deserves to be paid the richest fullback contract in the NFL because he's the best blocking fullback out there. Whether he's the best option for the Hawks, keeping the contract and versatility issues in mind, I don't know. 

What I do know is that whether the Hawks go with Reece, another free agent, or even just a UDFA, I'm just going to be glad they're committed to using a dedicated fullback because it's important to the rushing attack.