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The Ravens have a two-time Pro Bowl fullback on their roster with Le’Ron McClain, but that’s about it.
And depending on how the collective bargaining agreement situation turns out, they might not even have McClain.
At this point, McClain, a four-year veteran, could potentially hit the open market should the NFL and NFL Players’ Association come to a new deal in coming weeks.
Behind McClain, the Ravens currently don’t have anybody else. Jason McKie was signed briefly during the 2010 campaign, but was waived on Nov. 30. Without McKie, rookie tight end Dennis Pitta saw some time as an H-back.
Here is a look at who could be available on the free-agent front:
Note: Until there’s a new collective bargaining agreement, the Ravens can only re-sign their own players or assign them tenders. If there is a work stoppage, free agency will be postponed. Until further notice, Baltimore is operating under the 2010 free agency rules, which doesn’t grant unrestricted free agency until a player has at least six years in the league. That could change with a new agreement and make veterans with at least four years in the NFL unrestricted.
Vonta Leach, Houston Texans
Unrestricted; 6-foot, 255 pounds; 7 years 2010 Stats: 0 carries, 0 yards, 0 rushing touchdowns
Don’t let Leach’s sorry statistics fool you, the veteran plowed the way for running back Arian Foster’s stellar season. Running behind Leach on a Pro Bowl season for both, Foster topped 1,600 rushing yards and 16 touchdowns. Leach might be the most-coveted fullback on the market.
(Upside – Experience; Downside – Price)
Lawrence Vickers, Cleveland Browns
Restricted; 6-foot, 250 pounds; 5 years 2010 Stats: 5 carries, 11 yards, 0 rushing touchdowns
Vickers might be getting the Browns’ franchise tag this offseason, but if he is available, he would be a prime pickup. Vickers was a big reason running back Peyton Hillis surprised so many people this year, as Hillis even totaled 144 rushing yards against the Ravens in Week 3. The franchise tag means that Vickers would earn an average of the top five salaries at his position – a hefty sum.
(Upside – Brutality; Downside – Price)
Mike Tolbert, San Diego Chargers
Restricted; 5-foot-9, 243 pounds; 3 years 2010 Stats: 182 carries, 735 yards, 11 rushing touchdowns
Tolbert was a stud for the Chargers when rookie Ryan Mathews didn’t live up to early expectations. A goal-line go-to, Tolbert was incredibly reliable when it comes to punching it into the end zone. But, Mathews didn’t become the top-shelf rusher that many thought he would be in his first season, perhaps calling Tolbert’s blocking into question.
(Upside – Ball-carrying ability; Downside – Blocking)
John Kuhn, Green Bay Packers
Restricted; 6-foot, 250 pounds; 5 years 2010 Stats: 84 carries, 281 pounds, 4 rushing touchdowns
An undrafted free agent out of Division II Shippensburg, Kuhn took full advantage of a season-ending injury to starter Ryan Grant. Now, James Starks has come on for the Packers, but there were a few weeks when Kuhn was Green Bay’s primary ball-carrier.
(Upside – Youth, Physicality; Downside – Inexperience)
Tony Richardson, New York Jets
Unrestricted; 6-foot-1, 240 pounds; 16 years 2010 Stats: 5 attempts, 13 yards, 0 rushing touchdowns
A seasoned veteran, Richardson has played 17 years and blocked for eight 1,000-yard running backs. He might be aging, but the Jet’s fullback’s toughness, leadership and perseverance is undoubted. Richardson might hang them up this year, but if not, the Ravens could make a Lorenzo Neal-type signing as a stop-gap in 2011.
(Upside – Reliability, Leadership; Downside – Age)
Other Players To Watch: